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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Tale of Two Weddings

July was the month of weddings for us.  We had two to attend; one for the son of life-long friends and the other for our niece.

The first wedding was very traditional, and I have grown accustomed to these affairs not being very 'vegan friendly'.  I plan to eat a late lunch on the day of the event, and pack a snack to have in the car after the event.  Usually there is SOMEthing I can snack on though, some plain lettuce or a plain potato, but this event was strictly non-vegan.  Every single potential food source had been made unhealthy and inedible by me.

I had hopes when a large salad bowl was passed around to dig in the bottom of it and by-pass the thick helpings of sliced cheddar cheese, but the cheese covered practically every piece of lettuce.  I found one of the wait staff and pulled her aside to ask if there was possibly a bag of lettuce without the cheese in the kitchen somewhere, but she quickly (and not very politely) dismissed me with a curt "no".

I surveyed the buffet line and was excited to see a large vat of green beans, but then quickly saw that the beans were covered in bacon and glistened with some kind of oil.

So, I spent the evening awkwardly at my table while those around me ate a 5 course meal and I had my empty plate and my iced tea.

It was really an interesting experience though, as I noted the LACK of upset I had at the event.  I truly don't expect others to cater to me, but had thought possibly our society had evolved a bit and that maybe there would be something for those not wishing to ingest animal products, some fresh fruit or fresh veggies.  Still, even with the mild awkwardness of not eating, I enjoyed myself, centered my attention on the happy newlyweds, enjoyed conversation with people I had not seen in a long time and realized that this is the price of standing for what I believe in, for being true to my commitment to my health, my body and my ideals, and it truly is who I am.  Somehow that was far more filling than anything I could have put on my plate.

Fast forward a short 2 weeks later and we found ourselves at a 2-day wedding affair for our niece, who was marrying a man from India.  The two had decided to combine cultures and had set out to try to interlace as much of the Indian culture and traditions as they could into their ceremonies.  We had an entire dinner and celebration the night before the wedding, with family and close friends.  I was excited to find a huge bowl of salad WITH NO CHEESE!  I was set for the evening.  (There was Indian food available, but I wasn't sure of ingredients and really was fine with a huge salad, so didn't bother anyone to inquire about ingredients).  It was a great experience and there was loud Indian music that was very entertaining and off the beaten path of my musical tastes.  I loved being exposed to a bit of a different culture.

The next evening was the main event which was beautiful and fascinating in so many ways.  I again went into it with no expectations for food, but did notice as the buffet was being set up a small card with a "V" on it close to one of the heated containers of food.

When our table was called up to go through the line, I approached one of the servers behind the table and asked her if the "V" was for vegetarian or vegan.  She said that the "V" is vegetarian and that the vegan dishes are labeled 'vegan'.


I tried to control myself, but asked, you mean there are vegan dishes?  She gave me a quizzical look and said, 'well, of course!'

She proceeded to take me down through the containers of food and pointed out the first vegan dish...I looked further down to see FIVE vegan selections!  And actually, there were six because there was a bowl of plain spinach available.

(Pic of my plate at the wedding)

Now I suppose the vast selection of vegan foods was mainly because of the Indian cuisine influence, but I still am choosing to believe that times are changing and here in the west we are beginning to break free of the unhealthy traditions that have contributed in no small measure to the growing health crisis of this country.  And this change can't come soon enough!

Sue in Ohio

Friday, August 17, 2018

Tools - It's All About the Apps, the Apps, the Apps.

I recently moved past my 8th year of being vegan.  Yeah!  I continue to work to achieve maximum health and wish to age well via a whole food plant-based diet, and with this goal in mind,  I make education on current applicable research and emerging tools a priority.

I haven't jumped into the Fit-Bit craze as I view it as just-one-more-thing I would have to remember to wear and already feel encumbered by my smart phone (why do they keep getting bigger?!?!?), but I did, nonetheless, want to track my daily steps having recently embarked on a 'ramp-up' of my exercise routine. 

Enter a nifty (does anyone say 'nifty' anymore?  Probably not.)  little app:
Pedometer Step Counter.

There are many step counting apps out there and I've used a couple of others that worked well but here are the things I am liking currently about this app: 

Accuracy.  It seems more accurate to my steps than other apps I've used. 
Goal-Setting Ease.  It's very simple to change the goal you have and it even suggests a new goal if I meet my goal early.
Works with my Phone.  My phone is almost always in my pocket anyway, so no extra device is needed.
Informative Chart.  There is a nice chart/report that I can view that easily will give me distance info, time, etc. which I find helpful for motivation.
Cuteness.  While this isn't really a big factor for me, I do like the bright pink feet icon that makes it easy to turn on in the morning (something I sometimes forget to do) and there are cute little celebratory images that pop up when I hit my goal or set a new record.

The only 'down' side I have found thus far is that I do have to remember to turn it on or off (can save battery by pausing it, but then have to remember to un-pause it), but to complain about that seems just silly.  It's a nice little app, is free and accomplishes its purpose.

For at least a year or more I've been wanting to track my nutrient intake.  I don't want to just have the macros, i.e. fats, carbs, protein, I want the MICROs.  There are several nutrients that I need to focus on as I age that correlate directly to bone health, avoidance of sarcopenia (muscle loss with aging) and since we have it beat into our heads that we need to watch protein, I want this stat to arm myself on my annual visit to my (non-plant-based) physician, and the cronometer app reports not only protein, but breaks it out by amino acid.  Cool.

Like most apps, has a free version and a premium one.  I am getting all I need with their free version.  I can put in my foods individually and can also upload brands or specific items by photographing the QR code (you know, that square code that looks like a maze from a kids' puzzle book).  It can be a bit time-consuming, especially when first starting out, but it is very user friendly, doesn't have a lot of quirks and I now discipline myself into tracking my food at least 4 days a week. Having to put in each individual item can be a bit of a hassle, but it is worthwhile and can uncover some nutritional deficiencies, and confer a potential added benefit of being really accountable for what is eaten in a day, both in terms of not over-eating and in working to get enough of the nutrients we really do need.

I haven't used the cronometer app for weight-loss but since calories consumed is shown prominently, I do glance at that, and have actually lost some weight. (I think that is more a factor of me working to really clean up my diet, avoid all processed foods and work to get some key cruciferous foods in daily---see future blog post coming soon).

I also like that I can manually change the nutrient target values (don't assume that the pre-set ones are right for you!), raising or lowering them to tailor what my needs are (or what the latest research is showing).  Here is a screen shot from a day this week:  I listen to at least one, usually more, podcasts per day and have found Stitcher to be a mostly reliable app.  (I occasionally find it slow to update one or two of my favorite podcasts, but it seems to be the same podcasts so that could be a problem with the way they are formatted or uploaded).
I like that I can go forward or backward in 30 second increments to avoid some ads, (sorry Rich Roll!  I do listen occasionally to the ads!), or to get a repeat on a particularly compelling piece of information. 
I am amazed at the number of plant-based pod-casts that are available now and the number of really good self-improvement ones as well.  I'll do a future blog post with my favorites, but here are two newer podcasts I am really enjoying:

PlantProof.  Plant proof is put out by Simon Hill and he's set up a nice web-site you can find here:  What I really like about Simon (besides his lovely accent) is that he works to have EVIDENCE-BASED information on his podcast.  There are far too many conflicting ideas these days and it is easy to get lost in the myriad of 'experts' that are spewing often self-serving information.  I also like the way Simon summarizes and highlights the key points as the pod-cast is going on, which helps me retain the information.  Check out episode 17 for a very indepth discussion of gut health as Simon interview Dr. William Bulsiewicz.

Vegains.  It is impossible not to smile as I listen to Ferdinand Beck's cheery voice.  I find his German accent as charming as I do his infectious personality.  He has an active youtube channel as well.   I like the inspiration to do some weight-training I get from Vegains and his partner has a nice food-oriented youtube channel as well....  Scorpion Mind.

(Just in case someone reading this has not ever listened to Rich Roll's podcast, I need to mention it here.  By far my favorite podcast of any type, Rich goes the distance ---pun intended---and continues to put up a quality product with highly relevant guests and topics.  I've been listening since he started and his evolution is fascinating and inspiring.  Read Finding Ultra if you haven't read his story.)

Hope this helps.  To your health!

Sue in Ohio

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Where is My America? - and a yummy dessert

This is a post I put up on my FaceBook page today to express some thoughts I had on the 'day after the day after'. 10 November, referring, of course to our presidential election in the U.S.  I was surprised to see that a few of my friends shared it on their pages and since I have been neglectful of this blog, thought I would post it here; possibly someone else will find interest in it.

Since my focus has been on food on this blog, (and since we could all use a little bit of a treat following this difficult week, month, year), I'm sharing a recipe I adapted from The Happy Pear.  I hope you will enjoy both....


Where is my America? (Warning: long. You might want to go watch a video of cute puppies instead).

Yesterday I spent most of the day reeling from the realization that a man that represents fundamentally everything I hate about the corporate status quo, the male-ego-driven power mongers and the intrinsically unfulfilled sexist bullies of the world, was elected to the most powerful position in our country, if not the world. It felt like a sucker punch, a kick in the deepest part of my heart and I could not help but grieve for something that I felt was within our grasp and yet snatched from us at the last moment.
I was not alone; one of my dearest friends even wore black yesterday, in mourning. Black; yes, that is what it feels like. Dark, no light, no hope.
This morning I am feeling a little bit differently. I am seeing demonstrations across America; a passion brewing that I haven't seen since we protested the Vietnam war or since we burned our bras to symbolize to the then bullies that we women are a force that will not be ignored and we WILL be heard.
Maybe this is what it takes to galvanize change. Maybe we need to put a junk-yard dog of a bully into the highest office and give him the nuclear codes and live with that hanging over our collective heads to get real in this country.
We need change. The powers that be are running our planet into extinction and are failing to do their sworn duties. They continue to cater to their own best interests and look away from the bigger picture.
Out of the ashes that this election has created, perhaps a strong Independent Party will finally emerge. Maybe a true Democratic party will create itself. Maybe those of us who have now been forced to see that perhaps fully 50% of our country is actually racist, sexist and white supremacist, (something we kind of sort of already knew, now didn't we!!!?) will make our little inroads into these archaic ideologies that only serve to demean the people on the other side of the prejudice. (I swear Trump's campaign really wanted to be: Make America White again).
Guess what, Mr. Old Guard White guy, America isn't the America from 1950 and wasn't all that 'great' then either. It's too late to go back. Women have rights. Gays have rights. Our country has always been a melting pot of cultures, genetic diversity and religious freedom. This is a source of strength, not a disease you need to deport or wipe out. There isn't any 'greatness' to go back to.
And you are not the first bully to try to push us around. I got chills when Michelle Obama spoke about how we know you. Yes, we do. There isn't a single one of us who hasn't had to deal with somebody somewhere who decided that they were better equipped to run our lives than we were. No, we aren't going back to the America you want again, where gays hide in closets and women freshen their lipstick and straighten their slips and wait on you hand and foot, spread their legs on command and bow to you.
So, where is my America? It has never been where I have looked for it. It is only there waiting for me to create. To the degree that I can surround myself with those that also believe that the individual matters, that she or he has rights, that personal expression and diversity make us strong.....up until the point where it becomes so divisive that it breaks us surround myself with these visionary individuals and build them up to the best of my ability, while making it CRYSTAL CLEAR to those who would snatch my rights away that NO, THAT IS NOT OKAY, is to create my America, my true family, my strength.
I'm not going to Canada, or Japan or Australia, or even taking a very tempting offer of a place to stay in New Zealand, although the reaching out to me from my international friends over the last 30 hours or so has touched me in such an intimate way; I thank all of you for that loving extension of support. The world cares, and is watching. Because this is a more important issue than geography....this is human rights.....this is women's rights.....this is the freedom FROM tyranny....and that is what America was founded on....not some playground for a bully to get rich on and just use until it is used up.
I'm not leaving because America needs me. It needs you. If all of us that believe the individual matters leave, then who will be here to balance the forces of sexism, discrimination and hatred?
Stay. I know you are hurt. I know you want to leave. I know you want to immerse yourself in a bag of Doritos and double-chocolate rocky road (vegan) ice cream. Go ahead and do what it takes to mend yourself, but I need you to be here now more than ever. Make your voices heard. Let's find a way to work together, yes, even with those who want to cut us off at the knees.....why do we have to take the high road? WHY IS IT ALWAYS THE ONE OPPRESSED THAT HAS TO TAKE THE HIGH ROAD????

Because we can and they can't.

It's a new day and we have been through worse than this. Some of you aren't old enough to remember, but trust me.....this isn't the worst.....come on. We can do it. Show them your strength. Show them your true spirit and your beautiful colors.
With love and determination.


Determination Dessert

I based this off of the Happy Pear's 'Chocolate Lasagne' dessert.  It is 3 layers:  a crust, a filling and a topping.  It goes together fairly quickly, depending on the equipment you have.  I used a small food processor for the crust and pre-soaked the dates to aid the blending process.


   large Medjool Dates (approx. 8 soaked in water, save water)
   raw walnuts (1/4 c)
   raw sunflower seeds (1/2 c)
   raw cashews (1/4 c)
   pinch vanilla powder
   (Note:  quantities are estimated as I never measure and I keep adding what I need more of, wet or dry, to get a consistency that will press down well into the bottom of a pie plate, custard cups or decorative muffin tins---nice for making individual servings)
   Blend in processor.  Add small amount of date water as needed.  Press into bottom of suitable dish.

Medjool Dates (approx 2, soaked)
1 T coconut oil
peanut butter (approx 1/2 c - or other nut butter)
1T maple syrup
pinch vanilla powder
1/2 c unsweetened coconut

Blend in processor.  Add date water as needed.  Layer on top of crust.  Place in refrigerator.


(Note: pre-chill a can of coconut cream or coconut milk to make this work)

1 can of coconut cream, pre-chilled in refrigerator overnight-scoop out solid portion.
Drizzle of maple syrup
pinch of vanilla powder

Whisk by hand in bowl until fluffy and smooth.

Dollop on top of filling layer.  

Dark Chocolate bar.  Microplane or grate on top of cream.  Keep refrigerated until serving.

{Link to the Happy Pear's more elaborate dessert is here:}


Sue, determined, in Ohio