Monday, January 24, 2011

Snow Fun & Karlito’s Sweet n’ Salty Cereal Snack Mix

We got a lot of snow in Kansas City last Wednesday, and I had a blast playing with my dogs while the snow was still coming down and it was so bright that it was nearly daylight. Me and Mikey the Wonder Dog had a snowball fight … I won. He can’t make snowballs for beans! Then we played chase … He won. I can’t run and chase for beans! Then I made a snow angel. I haven’t made a snow angel in thirty years at least. I hesitated at the thought and then I just went for it! I dropped down into the snow and I was 10 years old again! Fantastic! Mikey the Wonder Dog jumped on my head!
It's amazing the difference in my ability to shovel, workout and play since I've been eating a plant-based diet and getting regular workouts. I enjoyed shoveling the drive as my workout on both Wednesday and Thursday. The air was crisp, the snow was pretty light, and it felt great to be outdoors. I shoveled the drive, the walks and the patio and still wasn't ready to go indoors, hence the doggy play.
On Thursday I got another snow day, and after shoveling again, I curled up on my chair, snuggled under a warm blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and watched Amelie, a movie that’s charming and beautiful. If you live near me, I'll gladly loan you my copy.
And my movie snack? Karlito’s Sweet n’ Salty Cereal Snack Mix! I cop to the fact that Karlito’s recipe is different, but mine is a gluten free version and totally delicious! Here’s the recipe: 3c Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise cereal, 3c Nature’s Path WholeO’s, 1c-1½c salted peanuts, mixed together and sprinkled with stevia to sweeten to taste. I mix and store it in a plastic bag and 1c = 1 serving. Yum! The Mesa Sunrise is a multi-grain flake-style cereal with corn, amaranth, quinoa, flax and buckwheat. WholeO's are a brown rice and corn Cheerio-style cereal that's gluten free. You can use flake and O-style cereals of your choice.
Switching gears: Sad that the Bears didn’t pulverize the Packers, but as the old Chicago saying goes, “There’s always next year!” I joined a group at Tower Tavern to watch the action and totally forgot (Absolut will do that to you!) that pita bread is definitely not gluten free and ate some of that along with, not dairy free, artichoke dip. What can I say? The trauma of the 1st half took over!
Go Blackhawks!!!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Angels, Dominion, Responsibility

For my Christian readers who share that God gave us dominion over plants and animals for food, so they don't buy into the whole vegan thing:
Psalm 8 (From the New International Version ©2010)
LORD, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
 1You have set your glory
   in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
   you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
   to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
   human beings that you care for them?[c]
 5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
   and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
   you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
   and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
   and the fish in the sea,
   all that swim the paths of the seas.
 9 LORD, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
“… made them rulers over the works of your hands.” Should you take this seriously? If you do, than the job comes with the responsibility to treat “everything under your feet” with respect; they are the ‘works of God.’ The bible doesn’t tell you to be vicious and cruel in the treatment of God’s creatures, nor to look away at the injustices perpetrated by others on your behalf. It says you are just “a little lower than the angel” and that you are “crowned with glory and honor.” How honorable is it to be nonchalant in your use of animal flesh that makes it to your kitchen through torture and cruelty? Your disregard of whether or not the animals you choose to eat were treated humanely is not glorious or honorable, it’s selfish and it’s easy. Look away and the horror isn’t really there. Don’t make the hard choices.
I’m not advocating that you not eat meat. I’m suggesting that you open your eyes to where your meat comes from and then make a choice to either eat meat that was allowed to live as it was intended to live or not eat meat. It takes work. It’s not easy. For me it was easier to just go without meat.
Maybe you can’t fathom a meatless world. I get that. Just do the work to make sure the animals you’re eating were treated properly. It’ll cost more. Maybe you can make up the difference by eating some meatless meals, or less meat at each meal. You decide. You’re the one that’s just a bit lower than an angel. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recipes and Frank

It was a fantastic weekend! Friday night was dinner at Po’s Dumplings with my friend, Judith. They have an eggplant dish that is sweet and spicy and absolutely divine! Po’s is the perfect place to go with everyone. They have gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, seafood and a lot of meat dishes. Delicious!
The high point of the evening was going to see the documentary Let Me Be Frank about a 50-something, New York Italian, who in the year 2000 was 5'7", 287 pounds and living in San Francisco.  He was a former heroin addict in recovery for 17 years, and the doctors were treating him for Hepatitis C. Frank swallowed a handful of pills every morning including antidepressants; he was miserable both physically and emotionally.
One day he stumbled onto Café Gratitude, and thinking it was somehow related to the recovery community, he went inside and sat down. It became clear that this wasn’t an AA or NA hangout; These were people eating healthy, no one was smoking, and there wasn’t a cup of coffee in front of everyone. He stayed. Something about the feel-good atmosphere grabbed hold. Outspoken and funny, and honestly quite frank, Frank became a regular at Café Gratitude, a raw vegan restaurant. 
One day Ryland, his brother Cary and his friend Conor offered to transform Frank’s life in 42 days. They insisted that Frank sign a contract stating that he would follow their rules, including filming the entire process. The rules included eating a raw vegan diet, weekly colonics, and daily affirmations.
When a filmmaker from New York moved to San Francisco and met Ryland, Cary and Conor, and looked at the raw footage, he knew there was magic to be made. The magic is Frank’s transformation, but it’s more than that: Frank’s honesty and humor make people fall in love with him. Friend them on Facebook so you can attend a screening when they’re somewhere near you, or for those in KC, come on over and we’ll watch it at my place. It is inspirational!
Frank came out and did about a 30-minute Q&A and he looked so good! His humor and language were exactly the same. He was relaxed and enjoyed the audience as much as we enjoyed him. A truly wonderful evening!
When I returned home from the movie, the homemade Maple Baked Beans that had been cooking in my Crockpot all day were done. Delicious! I had never made baked beans from scratch and they were so good I thought I’d inadvertently added bacon. I adapted a recipe from the book 1000 Vegan Recipes, by Robin Robertson. The original recipe was baked and called for canned beans, dry mustard and cayenne pepper. I changed quantities based on the beans used and threw it all in my slow cooker. 
The recipe: 6 cups of mixed black beans, pinto beans, and black eyed peas. (These had been soaked overnight and measured after soaking. I'm confident that you can use any kind of bean you have on hand. If using canned, drain and omit the salt.) 2/3 cup pure maple syrup, 3 tbsp of blackstrap molasses, 1 sliced large onion, 2 sliced cloves garlic, 1-2 tbsp yellow mustard and salt. I salted these as uncooked beans, so probably 1 tbsp of salt. Put the beans in the Crockpot, cover with water, add the other ingredients and cook on low for 8-10 hours. I took the cover off for the last hour of cooking.
Yesterday I made a vegan, gluten free Mushroom Risotto that was delicious. I adapted that recipe based on the mushrooms I had available, from I substituted tamari for the balsamic vinegar, and fresh mushrooms for dried. I didn’t have shitake’s so I used portabella and cremini. This is a dish that would fool your friends into thinking it’s not vegan. It’s got a richness that I haven’t found easy to create since I took meat out of my diet. Wonderful!
My journey has been a wild ride, but I wasn't filmed during the tough times. Frank's journey has allowed him to be the person that was under all the crap. What a gift!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Noodle Gods Have Aligned!

I am able to eat my favorite breakfast gluten free! Noodle Soup. I add rice noodles to un-chicken broth and make a gluten free, vegan soup. Paired with a fruit smoothie and this girl’s HAPPY! The rice noodles are a bit different but after they’re in the broth for awhile they’re really good. Thank you oh great, magnificent noodle gods!
I’ve been trying to find something gluten free that actually feels like I’m eating an entrée instead of a group of side dishes. Last night I felt like I had my first official gluten free meal. The entrée was Cheesy Potatoes and they were fabulous. Here’s the recipe:
Take two small or one cooked large russet potato, cubed, ¼ cup Daiya cheddar cheese, 1 tsp. Earth Balance butter, salt and pepper to taste. Put the potatoes in a dish, add the Earth Balance and microwave until hot and butter has melted. (2 minutes) Add salt and pepper and toss. Sprinkle on the Daiya cheese and return to the microwave until Daiya melts. (45 seconds)Daiya Cheese Shreds 8 oz. Cheddar
I added a salad of green leaf lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, dressed with light vinaigrette, and finished with a heavenly orange-berry –chocolate sorbet. It was a delicious dinner!
A couple of notes: I like to steam or slow cook my russets because I don’t like them dry and mushy. To save time, energy and for ease of meal preparation, I cook several at a time and have them ready in the refrigerator. Also, I have a 900w microwave. Your times might vary. I plan on trying this on the stovetop in my cast iron skillet. Daiya is available at Whole Foods and in Kansas, at HyVee. If you can't find it near you, click on the image.
What? Ahh … you noticed the orange-berry-chocolate sorbet? Yeah … it was heavenly … What? You want the recipe for that right now?! Hand over the chocolate and no one gets hurt? Far be it for me to stand between you and your chocolate!
The sorbet is basically my smoothie recipe frozen to the consistency of soft serve ice cream with shaved chocolate added. Here it is: ½ to ¾ cup of light cranberry juice, 1 orange, peeled and quartered, ½ cup of frozen blueberries, 3-5 frozen strawberries, 2” chunk of frozen banana. Blend well and pour into an ice cream freezer until it reaches the consistency you like. Toss in 1-2 tablespoons vegan chocolate chips. Enjoy! Chips can be shaved, chopped or whole. (Makes 2 servings)
I have a Donvier with a bowl that stays in the freezer until ready for use. It took about 6-7 minutes for the sorbet to get to the consistency I like. I put my leftovers in the freezer and then soften in the microwave, so if you don’t have an ice cream freezer, you could probably just put the smoothie in the freezer and soften it in the microwave prior to serving. Add the chocolate chips at the end.
When I run out of strawberries and blueberries, I’m going to try a tropical sorbet of oranges, pineapples, banana and coconut; and chocolate of course!
The biggest problem I’ve had with the switch to gluten free is how much food will hold me until the next meal. I used to eat a big breakfast knowing exactly what worked when lunch was going to be five hours later without an opportunity to eat between the two. The Weight Loss Challenge’s plan is to eat three meals and one snack per day while eating to satisfaction but not fullness. We are rating our hunger level, with a goal of staying between 4/hunger awakens and 7/completely satisfied on a scale with 0 being ravenous and 10 being sick.
I find that the foods that get me to 5 and 6 (neutral and satisfied) just don’t last as long as the heavier, gluten grains, so I’m pushing myself to 7 and even 8 (full) so that I am not ravenous an hour before my next meal.
I plan to sit down with a couple of gluten free cookbooks and really learn a bit about the grains that are available, choose some recipes, shop for the ingredients, and prepare them. Hopefully I’ll find some gluten alternatives with staying power. With this drastic change in foods, I also need to figure out my average calorie intake. Nice! I have some projects for this weekend!
Happy Birthday, B-Man! The journey continues.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Morning Ramblings

A gluten free vegan journey is a different trip. I’m not sure what to call this blog since I still occasionally eat seafood. It’s not vegan, although my intent is still to eat a vegan diet. So, I’m leaving the name and working through the confusion and difficulties that surround food choices. That’s the purpose of my blog; to work through the challenges publicly in support of anyone trying to improve their health, animals’ lives and the health of the planet.
The conversion to gluten free is one of those challenges. The reduction in allowable foods has left me with little variety although I recall feeling the same way when I quit eating meat, dairy and eggs. My goal is to follow through on making new recipes each week.
I rarely ate potatoes and now they are a staple making their appearance on my plate at least twice a day. Saturday I made a pot of blackeyed pea soup in my slow cooker and I decided to throw in a few whole russets to let them cook along with the soup. They were delicious! I’ve eaten all four (they were small) topped with a teaspoon of Earth Balance and coarse ground salt and pepper. Yum!
Another favorite that I can still enjoy is my morning smoothie. Combine a half to three-quarters of a cup of cranberry juice with one peeled and quartered orange, two frozen peach slices, three or four frozen strawberries, a couple of chunks of frozen bananas and a small handful of frozen blueberries. After you make it a couple of times you’ll know exactly what quantity works best for the thickness you desire and for the strength of your blender.
If you’re trying the new Weight Watchers Points program, the only thing you have to count is the juice. Use light cranberry juice for very low points!
The smoothie is easy to change depending on what you have available. When I have fresh spinach on hand I like to throw a handful in, and often throw in a few carrots. You don’t taste the spinach or carrots at all. If you have kids who resist healthy eating, make them a green shake, put on a Shrek video and tell them it’s all Shrek will drink for breakfast! A healthy way to start their day!
This weekend friends and I went to JC Wyatt’s in Saint Joseph, Missouri for dinner. The restaurant is owned by two guys from New York, Jim (front of the house) and Jeff (chef), who go out of their way to please. This place is magnificent! It is a restored Victorian home that’s so beautiful it takes your breath away. I gazed at the ceilings all night. Jim created wonderful designs out of period-correct wallpaper.
We had an email discussion relating to diet a few weeks before our reservation, but since the addition of the gluten free happened rather quickly I decided to have the maple glazed salmon rather than ask them to prepare a gluten free vegan meal at the last minute. The food was divine!
The table is asked to limit their choices to two entrées from their menu of the day. They keep it small so that everything is prepared to perfection. The entrée price includes a first course, (ours was a choice of soup or salad), dessert, iced tea and coffee. You are welcome to bring in your own wine or beer. It is so worth the drive to St. Joe’s!

Since we have plenty of snow on the ground, I am going to forgo the gym and workout by shoveling snow. I love shoveling snow when I don’t have to do it right away to get to work. I can pick the time and enjoy the beauty of nature while working up a sweat! Even snow haters have to admit that the first day of a snowfall is beautiful.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Am I? Hungry? Really?

One of the instructions in the Mission Biggest Weight Loss Challenge plan is to rate your hunger on a scale of 0-10 with 0 being “empty” and 10 being, “take me to the hospital and have my stomach pumped” (not really, but you get my drift). We were given a list of factors that make you hungry, one of which is: Defending your set point. Several years ago there was a diet philosophy that centered on a person having a weight set point; a weight that your body naturally gravitates to, and that’s what I thought the Challenge information was referring to. It well might be, but yesterday I discovered that it meant something entirely different to me.
I was struggling with the amount of food I had eaten, rather than whether or not I was hungry. I ate a good breakfast at 8:00 (satisfied), and at 1:30 I had a small salad with hummus on the side (not satisfied), then ate a Larabar at 3:00 (satisfied). At 3:45 I went to the rec center and swam for 40 minutes, stretched out in the steam room for about five, then headed to the showers. Walking to my car at 5:10 I was hungry and decided to have a leftover baked potato at home.
Driving home I got to thinking about whether or not I was actually hungry, much less starving, and I discovered that physically I wasn’t hungry, but mentally I was famished. I fought it for awhile, but gave in and ate a handful of roasted butternut squash seeds and a small bowl of brown rice. It was this morning that I realized I do have a set point and it has to do with volume and density, not weight or hunger. There is a certain volume/density of food that is a subconscious need rather than a physical one.
So even if gluten isn’t an issue for me this test has been enormously beneficial. The absence of dense volume has brought me a new level of awareness and is responsible for the set point epiphany. I can look at my hunger with new eyes and when it’s volume/density related deal with it differently. That might not alleviate the feeling that something is missing, but it gives me an opportunity to discover what is actually physically necessary.
I wonder if the lower density of the food is why a lot of people who have grown up with a predictable food volume/density at meals and snacks feel deprived when eating healthy, lower calorie foods.
This brings me to another factor relating to my volume/density set point and that’s my sense of the volume of food that will prevent future hunger. I often eat based on when I think I’ll eat again. As an example, one of the factors in eating the seeds and rice last night was that I was going to go out and walk my dogs. Ummmm … Okay. What’s that about? Was I going to pass out from lack of food in the next hour? I don’t think so. Remember, I wasn't even physically hungry!
I can’t imagine many situations when I wouldn’t be able to find something to eat in a timely manner. I’ve never been so broke that I didn’t have food (thank you, universe!) and it’s not like I live in the middle of nowhere and find my cupboards bare on a regular basis with the nearest convenience store twenty miles down a lonely country road; Awareness.
Redefining hunger is going to be enormously helpful to me. Gaining insight into an issue gives me information to change it. Recognizing the absence of density is another piece of information on the journey. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Inveterate Experimenter

My community center is sponsoring their 2nd Annual Biggest Weight Loss Challenge, and since I stalled at a fifteen pound loss, I thought it would be a good idea to join. Sunday the 2nd we weighed in, were measured, and did a six-minute walk test to see how far we could walk and/or run in six minutes. Being a competitive sort, I just had to push it and so I mostly walked with about .10 mile of running added, for a total of .45 miles … Not a marathon-winning pace, but respectable. My feet were convinced we’d run a marathon.

Last Friday I decided to take my workout out of the pool and back onto the track. The muscles in my right leg felt healed (after a strength training move I should never have done) and I missed my walking sessions a lot, so I walked for 30 minutes, fairly quickly, and then moved to the elliptical for ten minutes. I stretched out and went home. My feet were hurting a bit.

That afternoon I had to do a bit of minor repair at the back fence line. A section of my neighbor’s fence had blown down and I needed to put a temporary fence up so that my dogs could be out in the backyard off leash. I was out in the cold wind for half an hour or so hammering 16-gauge galvanized mesh to fence posts. My fingers were numb from the cold, and my feet were aching from the stress of bending on an uneven surface. By evening my feet were screaming!

Saturday also took a toll on my feet since I was on them all day. A few friends had decided to have a progressive New Year’s Day event so we could share our holiday decorating with each other before we put everything away. My house was first on the list so I spent Saturday cleaning and preparing food for guests. This was a great way to share hospitality … half the work of having to prepare an entire evening and really FUN! My feet had toned down the cacophony, but were still being heard.

On Sunday when I went to workout, I walked 1.2 miles, had my scheduled Challenge weigh-in, then cycled for 20 minutes and headed down for the orientation meeting and initial team meetings with our newly-assigned team leaders.

My team leader is a meat, fat and green leafy veggie sort whose diet plan is contrary to almost everything I follow. His plan includes meat, seafood, fish, eggs, green and root vegetables and tubers, and includes saturated animal fat along with healthy fats. Basically his plan is a modified Atkins, with root vegetables and tubers being the only modification. He stresses in all caps, NO FRUIT, NO GRAIN, NO DAIRY, and NO LEGUMES. And, he said that exercise wasn’t critical … WHAT??

I find it interesting that I ended up in this group. The other two teams and all of the Challenge’s printed materials espouse Bob Greene’s ‘The Best Life’ plan. Go figure. I’m considering sending an email to the program organizer asking for his input on the discrepancy.

We discussed our differences after the evening ended and I agreed to give up gluten, but that was it. My vegan diet stands. I’m concerned that the individual support he offers will be subject to his bias. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach.

However, credit goes where credit is due and it was my team leader who got me interested in a gluten-free diet experiment. According to research that we discussed (and I researched online), gluten is inflammatory, and so a diet without gluten should significantly lessen arthritis and asthma because they are both responses to inflammation. Being an inveterate experimenter, I decided to adopt a gluten-free diet and gauge it's impact on my arthritis and asthma. I have experienced a significant reduction by eliminating dairy and eggs; however when I add a bit of running to my walking, I end up experiencing minor asthma attacks and my feet still ache. I am definitely hoping for a positive impact on these.

It will be tricky … gluten-free and vegan. Most of my comfort foods involve noodles. I see a lot of rice, quinoa and corn tortillas in my future. It’s being done by many, but it will be challenging to get started. Stay tuned!

Here are a few links if you are interested in more information. Huffington Post,  Mission Hills Integrative Therapy Newsletter, eHow.