September 27, 2012

Tropical Cherry Mambo: A Dessert Soup Recipe

This soup had me gleefully dancing around the kitchen, hence the "mambo" in the title. I've only had cherries twice this summer which is not nearly enough for a cherry-lover like me. I was overjoyed that frozen organic cherries were added to the freezer section at my grocery store, so I grabbed several bags. Since I love pineapple and cherries together, I was just going to blend the two together and pour into a glass. But, then I saw the ripe mango on my counter. Mango and cherries are another match made in heaven, so I couldn't resist adding it to the mix. The diced celery provides some texture and crunch. When I get on the roll with smoothies and juices, it is nice to have something to chew every once in a while.

As of late, I've been gravitating towards raw foods. More specifically, I've been inhaling fruit like it's no one's business. Even when J makes a cooked meal that smells delicious, I've had little to no desire to eat it. I'm not sure what brought on this change, but I am reaping the benefits. My tired moments are more spaced out which means I can do more without worrying if I'll become exhausted in the middle of whatever I'm doing or wherever I am. The fruit also gives me a jolt of energy in between my tired moments which again means I can do more in a day. And, I've been sleeping better which increases my energy during the day which enables me to – yes, again – do more!

The simplicity of eating fruit is just what I need. Grabbing a bunch of bananas or a bag of grapes instead of an elaborate raw meal or cooked meal clears space in both body and mind. For my body, I am minimizing the energy expenditure for digestion, thus enabling further space to heal. My mind has been on overload lately, and I want to resolve that. Normally, it is preparing food that brings me a sense of calm, but feel like I want to be present in the stillness around me. Giving my mind a break from creative food preparations (as magical as that process is!) gives me space to work through mental blocks that are troubling me.

After a lull in juicing, I'm back to doing it everyday. In combination with the high fruit intake, the juicing feels great. I'm maxing out the food budget with so much fruit and all the produce needed to juice, but I have some ideas to alleviate that issue. I don't want to stop doing what my body needs because of money. I only want to change if I feel my body needs a change. That's not a luxury that I always have, but I want to make it happen if possible.

This deep-red velvety soup was created on the perfect warm fall afternoon. This is a quick recipe with a fancy twist. It satisfied the need for me to create, but didn't distract me from my healing mindset. I ate it for lunch in my sunshiny yard in full appreciation for the waning warmth of the summer sun. Tucker entertained himself nearby, watching the birds in the bushes and digging his nose in the dirt like a piglet.

Tropical Cherry Mambo 
serves 1

1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple
1/2 cup frozen cherries
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 cup green leaf lettuce
3 drops of medicine flower vanilla flavoring (or ¼ tsp of extract)
1 stalk of celery, minced
1 small mango, chopped (about 1/2- 3/4 c)
dash of cinnamon
dash of ginger

-Blend pineapple, cherries, frozen mango, lettuce, and vanilla until smooth.

-Place in a bowl and top with diced celery and fresh mango.

-Garnish with a few sprinkles of cinnamon and ginger.

September 21, 2012

Raw Vegan V8 Recipe

The tomato harvest has come and gone for my CSA. So sad! It wouldn't be a stretch to say that I ate my weight in tomatoes this season. I made many batches of bruschetta, various tomato salads, raw pasta sauce, salad dressings, raw soup, and so much more. The best tomato I had all summer came from my grandpap's garden. He passed away about 5 years ago and hadn't tended to the garden for years before that. My uncle moved back to the old homestead and has been giving the family some of the random bounty that's been popping up. The garden also gifted me with the best lettuce greens I had all summer. Pappap's tomatoes were so outrageously delicious that I was eating them like apples. If I could have those tomatoes year-round, I'd be converting to tomatotarian in a flash. 

A sauce recipe I've been working on (with a secret ingredient!)
As I was making this V8 juice, I discovered that my juicer doesn't handle tomatoes well. I use a masticating juicer which works wonderfully for harder veggies and leafy greens. I never have problems juicing cucumbers or softer fruits like pears either. But the tomatoes, oh boy, were they trouble! In the future, I'll probably use my nut milk bag to strain this as little to none of the tomato pulp comes out the other end. Seeds and all ended up in my juice. I strained it multiple times, but would've saved time if I had just grabbed the nut milk bag. 

At one point, I pushed the plunger down and tomato juice shot out covering my work space. I thought I got it all until I went into the bathroom and noticed juice pulp in my bangs! When it gets messy in the kitchen I always wish someone else were there with me for a classic food fight moment. But alas, I stay plenty entertained with me, myself, and I!

My inspiration to make this juice came from a video I watched by Kristina Carillo-Bucaram. I first heard her speak on the Rawpalooza Summit last fall. She is always creating something amazing. She's an 80/10/10'er, raw food educator, soon-to-be author, and an artiste to boot. Did I mention that she founded the largest organic food co-op in the U.S., too? Very cool.

Here's to vivacious lovers of life, raw food vibrations, and the ever-divine tomatoes of the summer of 2012. Cheers! 


Raw Vegan V8 Juice adapted from The Real V8 Juice by Fully Raw Kristina

6-8 small tomatoes
4 large carrots
4 stalks celery
2 leaves of kale
1 medium beet
1 sweet red pepper
3 cups spinach
1 handful of parsley
1 handful of dill
¼ t turmeric powder
pinch of cayenne, opt. (for spicy V8)

- Juice all of the veggies and herbs
-Add in dried spices
-Mix and serve.

September 18, 2012

Rest Your Body, Rest Your Mind

With adrenal fatigue, it's vital that one gets proper rest. That 2-3 pm crash that many people get is their adrenals telling them to take a nap lest the precious glands overextend themselves. Otherwise, you're bound to end up in a hellacious mood when they start pumping the stress hormone cortisol through your body. Keep your cortisol levels from rising during the day, and you'll have a more restful sleep at night, too. To reap the full benefits, you should make sure you're lying down horizontally, not just sitting down. You'd be amazed at the benefits that arise from a 15-20 minute midday nap. 

While I don't always drift off in an afternoon slumber, I do like to take a break from everything to focus on relaxation and quiet. My favorite thing to do as of late is hang out in the yard with Tucker. I usually bring lunch or a snack and a book with me. Sometimes I don't do anything but sit or lie in the grass, give Tucker doggie massages, and let the city sounds fade into the background. I've been enjoying the last of the summer sun in this very soothing way.

Physical rest is not the only thing that nourishes the adrenals. Cortisol management is the key. Both sleep and reduction of stress keep the cortisol peaks at bay. Sometimes doing a calming activity can be just as revitalizing for me as a nap. This past weekend, I rested my mind.

We've been taking Tucker to the dog park a lot. I love seeing the wide grin on his face, his tongue flopped to the side. Plus, we get to hike around on the trails after he gets his play time in. What a great opportunity to unwind!

While Tuck was running around like a mad man – his playmate that day was a 200 lb Great Dane – I found a bench near the trees to meditate and clear my mind of any stagnant emotions. I had a lemon turmeric drink (alkalizing and anti-inflammatory) at my side and a journal at my fingertips. Moments like those are just as important for healing as resting the physical self. The simple acts bring about the most profound change within.

Over the last couple months, my energy has not been as abundant as I'd like. I haven't been able to do a lot of the outdoorsy things that invigorate me. The hike we took made me feel so alive. We took an easy trail that meandered through the hills. The walk was a welcome retreat for J and I. We were far away from everyday stressors and able to enjoy being together.

On the way home, we stopped at the store to pick up a few items for dinner. J stayed in the car with Tucker while I got the groceries. When I got back to the car, I spied a very tired pup in the back of the car!

Our peaceful weekend also included going to an all-vegan brunch buffet with two of our friends. The restaurant we went to is great because they rarely use veggie meats in their dishes. The food is old-school hippie vegan at its best. The only downside of eating there is that many of the entrees are not gluten-free. I'm not allergic, but I feel far better when I exclude gluten from my diet. For the most part, I managed to avoid it. I had a tasty Moroccan stew, several different cold veggie dishes, grape leaves, and some cake. Small portions, mind you. I wanted to eat more of the pesto veggies (part of a pasta salad. I picked around the noodles), but my stomach had no more room!

A funny thing happens to me when I eat very satisfying, well-prepared vegan fare. Those wonderful cooked meals make me realize just how much I love raw foods. While I enjoy hearty vegan cooked meals, raw foods make me buzz. The ease of digestion, the hydrating freshness, the energy boost. There's nothing better. What can I say? I'm in love!

So, that was my worry-free weekend. Yesterday, I awoke rested and ready to tackle the day.

September 11, 2012

Sorting Out Our Plastic Predicament

Last month, Whitney Lauritsen, a.k.a. Eco-Vegan Gal, started an eco-vegan book club on Google+. Our first discussion is posted on Youtube for anyone who is interested in checking it out.

For our first book, we read Beth Terry's book Plastic-Free. It was eye-opening in so many ways. For anyone who is interested in living a more environmentally-conscious life, I'd recommend reading her book. She touches on almost every topic you can think of that is related to plastic consumerism (like recycling, grocery shopping, personal care products, furniture, companion animals). Each topic is matched to a real-life example of the activism in practice and a comprehensive list of resources. With her welcoming approach and sheer volume of resources, it's almost too easy to introduce eco-friendly changes into your life. 

I don't think cutting back on consumption/waste should be limited to plastic, as I feel that the greatest impact I have on the environment comes from my vegan lifestyle, but I'm glad I found such a great resource for our plastic dilemmas.
Terry offers up a challenge to the conscious consumers of the world. Collect all of your plastic waste for a month if possible or for a minimum of one week. This provides a visual and (hopefully) inspiration to make some changes. I collected my plastic waste for one week. The only things absent from my collection box are bags of dog waste (I use 2-3 BioBags per day) and a couple of receipts that I forgot to put in the box.

During my collection week I was involved in a project that increased my usage of packaged products. This snapshot contains some items that are atypical in my daily life. Because of this, I initially thought that my monthly plastic usage would be lower. As I think about it more, I don't agree with my original assumption. Throughout the month, things like empty mouthwash bottles, envelopes, toilet paper wrappers, and other items would even out the loss of the more uncommon plastic purchases I made.

After taring the weight of the box, the trash added up to 12.7 oz. That means that my typical monthly plastic usage is roughly 3 pounds. Not too shabby, but I've got some work to do!

So, what are some good habits that I have, and how can I improve? I'll start with the good.

As my vegan diet has evolved to include mostly whole foods, I've produced much less waste. I generally don't buy much that is processed or packaged. I buy food in bulk and love to make things from scratch. If something in a plastic jar is also available in a glass jar, I usually get the glass. I then reuse the glass jars for storing bulk items or leftovers. Besides the eco reasons, it also saves money. Glass storage containers can be expensive.

As for non-food plastic habits, I seldom buy anything new. My budget has been mostly allocated to doctor bills and wellness practitioners. Also, the shopping bug that runs in my family skipped over me because I don't like acquiring “things”. I'd much rather spend money on food. Food is my medicine, and it makes me feel so much better than any new outfit or gadget ever could.

Can I whittle away at the waste I still create? Of course. There's always room for improvement. One thing I did right after reading the book was order reusable organic cotton produce and bulk bags. I am hoping get some better grocery bags as well. I use the cheap reusable bags that they sell at the grocery stores. They're made of plastic (even the liner that looks like cloth), many leach harmful levels chemicals, and they are known to be breeding grounds for bacteria. I'd like to get some organic cotton ones that are washable and chemical-free. Repurposing tote bags would be the cheapest option, but due to the aforementioned apathy towards shopping, I don't have any lying around. Maybe a thrift store trip is in order.

This cotton mesh bag holds up to 50 lbs!
The other way to cut down on waste I produce is to start composting. A huge amount of my garbage is food scraps. I use as much of the food as I can before discarding. I juice stems or tops of parsley, kale, cilantro, beets, and carrots. I reuse juice pulp, dehydrate lemon peel, and am successful at rarely letting a food go bad in the fridge. Plant foods are natures gift to us, and I squeeze as much life out of these gifts as I can.

Back to composting. I've seen a few people really botch the process, and the smell was not pleasant. It's not that complicated, but it does demand some attention. This is one major change I am going to make very soon. It was almost like the book was whispering in my ear, “Hey, remember how you keep saying you want to start composting? Well, this seems like as good a time as any.” Once I figure out what method I want to use and find a place for it to go, I'll get the ball rolling. As of right now, my partner and I fill our garbage can every 2 weeks. Who knows how often we'll have to take out the trash once I start composting! I'll report back on that one. 

Organic cotton bulk and produce bags. Durable and inexpensive.
 For reducing non-food plastic usage, I'll have to enact many smaller changes. They won't have as large of an impact as the food-related plastic usage, but it's still important. I am going to be more vigilant in hunting out non-plastic items. If those aren't available, I'll go for the next best thing which is easily recyclable plastics.

I'm figuring out what to do about dog waste, too. I recently switched to BioBags, but realized after reading Plastic-Free that it is no better than using plastic grocery bags if I'm not composting the bags myself. Terry recommends a few alternatives in her book. I'm undecided as to whether I want mess with my current method at this moment in time. It might be more beneficial and worth my time to focus on the other things I mention.

Check out Beth Terry's book Plastic-Free (Get the Kindle edition or library copy to avoid creating waste!)  as well as her amazing website. Thanks to Whitney Lauritsen for starting this great book club and bringing Terry's book to my attention. By the way, the book club is open to all. Come join us!

What are some ways that you try to lessen your impact on earth's resources?

September 05, 2012

Cantaloupe Grape Green Smoothie

Hey, I'm on a green smoothie roll here. (Check out my previous post for yet another cantaloupe green smoothie.) I really have a hard time making something and not throwing greens in. They make me feel so wonderful that I feel I am doing myself a disservice by excluding them. Unless the meal is a salad, it's always a delicate balance between making something taste good and eating enough greens to satisfy me.

I was originally going to throw the grapes in the freezer. Have you ever had frozen grapes? It's the world's easiest popsicle. I know it's almost the end of summer, but there are bound to be a few more hot and humid days in the forecast. Try it before it's too late!

This smoothie will separate somewhat as it sits. If you don't drink it immediately, give it a stir before you drink up. My most pleasant surprise at first sip was how creamy the cantaloupe made the smoothie. I love thicker smoothies. There are exceptions, of course, but it always feels more substantial that way. This was unexpectedly luscious. 

The blender I'm using right now isn't the best, hence the specks, but you work with what you have, right? On the bright side, those deep purple specks are very pretty! It also provided for me a friendly reminder to chew. Even though it may seem odd to chew a smoothie, the act of chewing is vital for optimal digestion. Blending breaks down the cell walls, but chewing will mix food with saliva, which contains important enzymes for the digestive process, and send signals through the nerves to prep the body for the next steps of digestion.

I love putting fresh herbs and spices in my smoothies, but I had feeling that this one didn't need to be dressed up. I'm sure adding in some vanilla, a dash of cinnamon, or a few leaves of mint would be wonderful, but I couldn't mess with this effortless pleasure.

Cantaloupe Grape Green Smoothie              
makes 3 ½ cups

1 cup cantaloupe
1 cup black seedless grapes
¼ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
1 heaping cup of spinach
4 oz water

Blend and serve.

September 04, 2012

A Green Smoothie in Disguise: Carob Cantaloupe Berry

When I gave up meat, I stopped drinking milk, too. Soy milk was still a pretty new thing to the mainstream consumer, and I wasn't yet familiar with rice milk or nut/seed milks. They weren't available in my area as far as I can remember. Drinking soy milk eased my transition, but it wasn't the most enjoyable change I made. I had a hard time getting over the bland beany taste and the chalky texture. If I'd only known how easy it is to make nut milk at home! One thing that helped make it more palatable was buying flavored milk. Flavored soy milks today have improved greatly since then. It was great that they didn't dump so much sugar in, but “vanilla” wasn't quite so vanilla and the “chocolate” flavor was actually carob. That they only had carob flavor and not chocolate shows you how crunchy granola it was to drink plant milks back then. (It's crazy that “back then” only means 15 years ago. Amazing how quickly things change!) Those early soy-milk-drinking days were my first introduction to carob.

What is carob anyway? A member of the legume family, it is the dried “fruit” pod of a carob tree. It can be ground into a flour or made into syrup. The flour is most commonly toasted, but it is also available raw. You can also eat the raw fruit pod. I've heard it tastes amazing.

Many people use carob as a chocolate substitute. I can see the value of replacing chocolate in ones diet to eliminate stimulants, lower fat intake, or avoid an allergic response. However, I like to mention that it isn't going to taste just like chocolate, as substitutes rarely taste exactly like what they are replacing. In my early vegetarian days, I liked the carob soy milk, but my brain kept saying, “This isn't chocolate!”. While the flavors are similar, I prefer to love carob for its uniqueness instead of thinking of it as a substitute for anything. That's my personal preference. In my mind, if I'm not substituting, I'm not missing out on something. If you're eliminating chocolate from your diet and find it helpful to think of carob as a substitute, go for it. As always, do what works for you!

Carob is a very healthy food to consume. If you decide to replace chocolate with carob, there are several advantages to note. Carob has much less fat than chocolate. It does not contain the stimulants theobromine or caffeine, nor does it have oxalic acid, which interferes with the body's use of zinc and calcium.

This lovely bean is high in fiber and contains some protein, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin A, along with many trace minerals. Because it's slightly sweet, it can help you cut down on added sweeteners.

Fun facts:
  • The ancient Egyptians are among those throughout history have used carob as a sweetener.
  • The word “carob” is derived from the same Greek word as “carat.” Carob seeds, uniform in size and weight, were used to measure gems, and later gold, for sale.
  • Those of us who are obsessive food label readers have seen “locust bean gum” on ingredient lists. This thickening agent, stabilizer, and emulsifier is made with carob seeds.
  • The carob tree is extremely hardy in times of drought. When food rations were scarce, farmers gave their animals carob pods to save the other food for their family.
  • Anyone curious about Bible translation may find a story about John the Baptist interesting. In Matthew 3:4, he is said to have eaten locusts and honey. There is a theory that he didn't actually eat locusts but carob. After all, the carob tree is also known as the locust tree. Eating carob and honey makes more sense than eating locusts and honey. Don't you think?

This smoothie is delicious beyond words. The raspberries play up the fruitiness of the carob, and they both pair well with the melon. If you have a candida issue and are avoiding bananas, you can use stevia instead. Either one makes a wonderful smoothie. What I like about the banana is that the final product has more body. Most green smoothie recipes make the claim that you can't taste the greens in them at all. Though this is often true, many of them are a green color that can be off-putting to green smoothie beginners. This smoothie is doubly deceptive for the greens haters out there. Not only is the lettuce taste undetectable, but the color is a gorgeous chocolatey hue. Sneak some greens to those picky-eaters in your life. They'll thank you for it!

Cantaloupe Carob Smoothie 
makes about 3 cups

2 cups cantaloupe
1 heaping cup green leaf lettuce
3/4 cup frozen raspberries
8 oz unsweetened vanilla hemp milk (I use homemade)
1 1/2 T carob powder
½ Banana or 4-6 drops liquid stevia

Blend and serve.