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Friday, February 25, 2011

USDA Part 2, Bullies and "Flaxers"

I had to revisit the topic of the USDA and suspect I will do so again.  It's been an intense week for me, and I think some of it has to do with the after-effects of watching the first 10 minutes or so of the film "Earthlings".  I'm going to have a post about that important film in the future, when I am able to finish viewing it.  I was too upset over the first 10 minutes of the film to continue, but I do know that part of being responsible and empowered will include finishing that film.  Anyway, it has left me a bit raw and maybe defensive and quicker to jump to things like 'bitch slapping' the USDA.

Enter Dr.William Harris, Dr. Michael Klaper and John Robbins to my psyche rescue.  I've watched several videos on youtube of Dr. Harris' (amazing man...80 year old who sky-dives among other things.... see him here: - Note:  this provider, Supreme Master TV is highly religious and a little quirky, but very much peace and love which I needed healthy doses of this week.  I recommend you watch part two of this series as well.  In that, you hear Dr. Harris' rules for eating:  If it doesn't have fiber, don't eat it.  If man made it, don't eat it.  Love it!) 

I also watched Dr. Michael Klaper's lectures (early and more recent ones); here is the link to Part 1 of his early series, Foods that Kill:

In Dr. Klaper's later lectures, 2009 in Australia, there is an underlying calm and hopeful measure to his voice about the future of mankind and the crucial role that vegans will play in it.  It was quite uplifting to hear this gentle man's take on what often seem to be over-whelming challenges and his ability to look past all that is wrong with our modern society and see the good.

Enter John Robbins.  Seriously, this man is my hero.  I am reading his book "The Food Revolution".  This is the Robbins of Baskin & Robbins fame who left it all behind to pursue a more earthly (and non-animal product) existence. The quiet and controlled way that he gets the vital messages of the unsustainability of current agriculture and its devastating effects to our health and the planet is beyond admirable.  Even Ghandi would be proud.

Which brings me back to the USDA.  I realize that part of my journey to a healthier me, is learning how to deal with the various frustrations and indignities of this world in a non-violent, non-aggressive yet EFFECTIVE manner.  I hereby take back my rude BITCHslap to you, USDA and politely tap you on the shoulder with an organically-grown cotton-gloved hand and ask that you reconsider your very own Mission Statement, per

We provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science and efficient management.

I don't think you are using the best available science OR efficient management when you view the massive amounts of resources that are skewed to special interests (i.e. Big Beef, Big Dairy-got osteoporosis??).  And wouldn't 'sound public policy' include the most effective ways to prevent heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer? With diet-related health issues now beyond epidemic proportions, we definitely need some leadership! Tom Vilsack is our current Sec. of Ag, and I think that'll be a good place for me to start asking some POLITE questions.
I've been pondering the topic of bullies.  Do you have any bullies in your life?  Do you know anyone who does?  I do.  I've come to recognize some bullying behavior of people in my life.  Some of these people, it is impossible (or rather impractical) for me to simply disregard & I've run out of cheeks to turn, so, the universe has given me yet another 'learning opportunity' to develop into someone who can and will stand up for myself.  I believe this is intimately connected to my own self-esteem and it is funny how now that I am taking care of myself physically, these other areas have become like blaring neon flashers.

Bullying can be defined as:  repeated acts over time attempting to create or enforce one person's/group's power over another person/group.  This can be done socially or physically and creates an imbalance of power.  (U.S. Dept. of Justice).

Also:  persistent, unwelcome behavior;  unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, fault-finding.  Humiliation.  Some bullies are arrogant or narcissistic.  They are unwilling/unable to recognize the effects of their behavior on others.  They don't want to know any other way of behaving.  And there are even serial bullies, who have to have someone to bully.  (UK National Workplace Advice Line).

Hmmm.....Interesting and I think the USDA might fall into this category as well.

For me, and the bullies in my life, I am trying to effect change in a gentle manner.  Reading so much of John Robbins' work and falling back on other works I have read (Eckhart Tolle, George Leonard), I'm reminded of the power of water, running softly over stone, yet cutting its own way thru the stone, by persistently staying on its course, or, if need be, going around the objects that won't yield to its presence.

The great LaoTzu quote:  Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water.  Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it.  So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful.

I'll have to fall back to my resolutions this year and PRACTICE this method of reacting.  It'll definitely be a challenge for me.

I have been reading yet another book (I love hitting Half-Priced Books and clearing them out of their vegan cookbooks....usually there are only one or two and are less than $10.).  I found two raw cookbooks and have been researching the whole raw foodist movement with some interest.  Fresh, The Ultimate Live-Food Cookbook, by Sergei and Valya Boutenko, is a fascinating account of this brother's and sister's and their family's health problems and how they resolved them and attained good health through eating raw foods.  I decided to try their recipe for Golden Flaxseed crackers.

I dug out my dehydrator, cleaned it up and was good to go.  It turns out that raw foodists don't necessarily (at least some) not cook at all, but are trying to consume food that isn't heated above 118 degrees to avoid breaking down enzymes and other valuable nutrients.  Thus the instructions in the cracker recipe to dehydrate the mixture at 110 deg.

3 C golden flaxseeds, ground
2 large red bell peppers
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 C raisins
1 t sea salt
1/2 t ground cumin

Grind seeds in Vita-Mix or coffee grinder and transfer to bowl.  Blend remaining ingredients in food processor and mix with flaxseeds.  Spread mixture onto dehydrator trays and dry for 16-20 hours at 110 deg. 

Viv, my superstar Vita-Mix, processed the seeds up very well and I just added the other ingredients into the blender and processed that way.  At this point I lost my enthusiasm for my dehydrator and instead spread the mix on parchment paper on a baking sheet, made score lines and put in a low temp oven (around 200 deg) and baked for at least a half hour...I wasn't paying too much attention--American Idol was on-- :-).  I checked it a couple of times and left the sheet in longer as the crackers were still very flexible, so probably it was more like 45 mins.  I ended up turning the oven off and leaving the sheet in the oven overnite as the crackers still seemed very soft to me.
I absolutely LOVED these crackers!  I was going to call them "Brackers" as they seem part bread, part cracker, but settled on Flaxers.  I did sprinkle the top with coarsely ground Himalyan salt...just a very small amount; I'm phasing salt out or at least cutting it down to minimal amounts.  These went fantastically with the last of my tomato-squash soup....yum, yum.  I can see just endless variations on this recipe; throw a couple of shallots in there, or some dill.  Many options.

I only made up half the recipe amount as I have had quite a few recipe failures of late, and that can be discouraging.  I made the Black Beans in Red Velvet Mole from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction book.  I found it to be completely inedible.  I'm not sure what type of tastes a person would have to have to eat this, but it wasn't for my palate.  I also tried a miso dressing, will have to find which cookbook that came from....not for me as well.  Like Edison said, when you make a mistake, you really don't make a mistake, you just eliminate an option (I'm paraphasing), so I will chalk it up to that.

Even with my mistakes, my food program is going well, and I'm down another pound this week; thank you, Joel Fuhrman!  Now I will work on my self-assigned homework to be more like water and to not become a bully myself in my efforts to create change.

Sue, like water...if only a trickle, in Ohio

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

USDA, you got some 'splaining to do and Simple Food

Ok, now let me get this straight....we pay farmers to grow (or NOT to grow) cotton, rice, corn, wheat, sorghum, soybeans, (and up until a few years ago, tobacco), but we don't subsidize fruit and veggies and certainly not any organically grown foods. Of these subsidized crops, corn, and this is not sweet corn, or any corn which is remotely eatable, is the number one subsidized crop by far, and is predominately used to feed farm factory cattle or is converted into high fructose corn syrup, which is by now fully understood by even my dog as to not exactly be a health food.

USDA, I hereby BITCH-slap you across your fat greedy face. Sorry to be uncooth, but this defies logic, sanity and even explanation. To recant Desi's pleas to Lucy, 'you got some 'splaining to do'!

In the 1930s, Roosevelt launched crop subsidies, in the words of Henry Wallace, then Secretary of Agriculture, 'as a temporary solution to deal with an emergency.' At this point in time, America was facing the Great Depression and there were approximately 6 million FAMILY farms in the U.S. Plummeting farm incomes impacted nearly 25% of the population.

Now, some 80 years later, we are still subsidizing crops at the rate of $25 billion a year. This program no longer aides the small family farms (generally speaking), but is geared toward large agri-business. For example, in Kentucky, the top 10% of farms (by size and revenue) received 81% of total subsidy payments from 1995-2009. Triple Oaks Farm in Bowling Green, KY, received 4.75 million in subsidies for the above time period despite posting annual revenues of 1.5 million. This program no longer serves the needy.

I am not saying that necessarily the best move is to add to the subsidies and include organic farms or fruits and veggies, but clearly this is a system that (a) is no longer attaining the original goals set forward and (b) is unworkable and even harmful in that it is creating over-production of unhealthy crops that feed into (pun intended) an untenable and unsustainable system. Mega-farmers are lulled into agri-comas and continue doing what has been done, because hey, Uncle Sam is paying us---why go against the grain (sorry, couldn't resist).

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the small, organic farmer, trying to compete for a piece of the market, while the giants of the industry loom overhead. If by some chance John (or more likely Joan) Q. Public actually wants to eat better, they have to first find a store that will even carry a decent selection of organic produce, and then make the choice between the very cheap (corn by-product laden) unhealthy options (something in a box) or spend the extra dollars to try to get a nutritious fruit or veggie--even non-organic produce cannot compete with the price of unhealthy food. Could we possibly make this any harder?

And if that isn't enough to deal with, Heaven help the small veggie farmer that has to pass an inspection by Monsanto, for their patented seeds that might happen to migrate onto this innocent farmers land. In America, you can sue anyone for anything, and Monsanto has plenty of lawyers whose job it is to do just that if even one plant of Monsanto-owned seed is shown to be on the farmer's land. The farmer has no choice but to try to defend his or herself when charges are brought up, but who can compete against the legal force of a giant like Monsanto. But that, as they say, is another talk show.

Change is in the air, and I am hopeful, despite getting more and more angered as I delve deeper into the abyss that has become our agricultural system. I definitely do feel the change coming. It needs a serious push though. I'm not really one to write my congressman, but I believe that will be a good start for me, to at least ask their position on crop subsidies, and maybe open a dialog. Who knows, maybe it'll get 'em thinking that yea, you don't have to go to Denmark to find something rotten.....

Simple Food

I've been craving the simple foods as this winter (hopefully) draws to an end. I am on a couple of yahoo group lists and someone posted a recipe for soup (I think it was fatfreevegan or Eat-to-Live, both of which are wonderful sources of support). I have gone back and looked to find the original post, but I can't seem to locate it; I wanted to give credit where credit was due, but I scan through so many things quickly and anyway, my apologies to whoever's recipe this was. It's a generalized adaptation from many soup recipes I have seen elsewhere & I tweaked it, so I'll go ahead and post it. (If this is your recipe and you recognize it, please contact me so I can reference it properly).

Simple Tomato-Squash Soup w Chard/Leek

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 t cumin

1 butternut squash (or other)

1 can diced tomatoes

veg. broth (2 -3 cups)



1 can fava beans (or cannellini)

Saute onion, garlic and cumin in small amount of water, approx. 5 mins. til soft. Peel squash and cut into cubes. Add squash, broth (adjust amount according to how thick you want the soup---I used about 3 cups). Add seasoning to taste and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer approx. 30 mins. Pour soup into blender and process til smooth. Return to pot, add beans and heat through. (NOTE: I think this soup would make an excellent sauce. It could be made a little thicker by reducing the water and would be lovely over some red quinoa. My husband had some over some short-grain brown rice and did not complain....that's a victory here!)

I wanted something on top of this soup to add a bit of zip, so I took a few leaves of rainbow chard, rolled them up cigar fashion and roughly chopped. Chopped one leek and then lightly sauteed both together in some water. I wanted some crunch, so I didn't cook them until they were too soft. I sprinkled some on top of the soup...lovely and gave it a bit of texture.
Another food I've been having fun with, and this is so simple it's embarrassing, is a simple baked sweet potato with black beans as a topping. I keep thinking of other things I could add to this that would also be great, but have just been content having it this simple way. It started out as just a way to get more beans in, but now has become very filling and satisfying.
Sue, keeping it simple, in Ohio

Monday, February 21, 2011

Eat to what?, Rewards, Isa's Lentil Pie & Mango Tango

Eat to Live. Eat to what? Wait a minute, Dr. Fuhrman, I think you mean eat to reward ourselves, or maybe eat to celebrate, or eat to console or eat to fill ourselves to compensate for something desired yet not attained. Eat to LIVE????

Funny, as I've been reading Dr. Joel Fuhrman's book Eat-to-Live, it wasn't until about the 3rd chapter that I went, oh, wait a minute, I get it...EAT TO LIVE!!! My brain is always going about 10 different directions and it isn't until I grab it by its cerebral collar, slap it around a bit and get it to focus that the simple and profound has a chance in hell at registering.

How far we have come from that simple concept in the industrialized, codified, mechanized modern move-at-the-rate-of-nano-seconds western world. Where else would millions (and really it's billions) of dollars be spent on REMOVING calories from food and creating processed food-type substances to ingest so as to not absorb nutrients to LOSE weight when so much of the world is literally starving?

Or, in what I think has got to be the most ridiculous waste of resources of the last 50 years, set up factory farms, crowd cows into them, feed them corn that will make them so sick they can die if you don't slaughter them first, grow this corn on thousands and thousands of acreage and as a variety that is inedible to humans unless processed further (mostly into high fructose corn syrup), and feed this corn-fed, inhumanely treated cattle to humans, now placing them at risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and all the rest of the 'modern' diseases plaguing the westernized world. For more on the insanity of the rewards/regulations for the modern farmer, high fructose corn syrup, our current corn crop-yellow dent #2, and how corn farming came to be in its current state, watch King Corn, ---here is part one of an interview with the filmaker.

Eat to Live. We simply have got to learn that eating is not a panacea for all things, and that what we put into our bodies matters and is probably the most important thing we can do for ourselves, for our families and for the health of our planet. Right now, most Americans eat when they are happy, eat when they are sad, eat to reward, eat to entertain, eat to just plain eat. As a child, how often did you hear, 'well, you were good so we'll stop and get an cone of frozen bovine lactation...I mean, ice cream'. Or, 'let's go celebrate your good grade card, and go out to eat', etc.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have a place for the family celebration and certainly the sharing of vital nutrients and enjoyable foods has its place, but things have gotten WAY out of control and we are literally eating ourselves to death. Eating - to - Death.

We need a reality check and it is exciting to see the revolution that is underway; some of us are not waiting until we get a reality check that is too extreme to do much about.

I am one week now on Dr. Fuhrman's 6-week program. It was not much of a jump to tweak my whole-foods vegan plan to his simple program. About all I had to do was cut the whole grain/high starch veggies to the one-cup/day allotment and boost my consumption of veggies, raw and cooked and add the minimum one cup of beans per day. I had a hard time incorporating that much food for the first couple of days, but I lost 3 pounds last week, so am THRILLED! My numbers are moving again. Thank you, Dr. Fuhrman....I am eating to live.

Speaking of numbers, I hit one, several weeks ago and had promised myself a 'reward' when I hit this particular number on the scale. I didn't decide what the reward would be, but told myself I could splurge on something I wouldn't normally get for myself. I think that part of breaking the habit of food-as-reward is setting up new incentives, both tangible and untangible. Here is what I got for myself:

I have a thing for pens and had misplaced my old ink pen years ago, so thought I would get a new one. Fun and definitely something that is a bit of a splurge (even though I only spent $20. on it!).
I tried a few new recipes last week and am behind on putting them on the blog. I've been going thru Isa Chandra Moskowitz's "Appetite for Reduction" as I have mentioned before. I decided to make Isa's Upside Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie and the recommended Cauli-pots to go with. I followed Isa's recipes nearly to the letter (except omitted the oil and used porcini mushrooms) and especially liked the de Puy lentils (French lentils) that she recommended. Those are tasty. I am not a mushroom person, but my husband is, and he did enjoy this meal, so much so that I did not get a chance to take a picture of the cauli-pots....he chowed them all down! That is a WONDERFUL problem to have here as I am highly motivated to have him on this food program. I did enjoy the Lentil Pie, but was thinking that the next time I make it, I would add a bit more liquid and some thickener (either corn starch or whole-wheat flour wisked in some liquid and then added) as I think having it more as a stew would be nice. The cauli-pots were good, but I think adding some celery to the cook pot with the potatoes and cauliflower or even just a few more potatoes would be a nice alternative. Recipes follow.

Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie, from Isa Chandra Moskowitz "Appetite for Reduction".
2 t olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, chopped (1.5 C)
1 zuccini, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t dried tarragon
2 t dried thyme
1/2 t salt
several pinches freshly ground black pepper
1 C carrots, peeled and diced small
3/4 C du Puy lentils (French lentils) rinsed
3 C veg. broth
1 T Worchestershire (or 1 t tamarind & 2 t soy sauce, or 2 t soy sauce, 2 t tomato paste & 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice---I used this last option)
1/2 C frozen peas
1 recipe Cauli-pots
Saute onions in oil (I used water) until translucent, about 4 mins. Add mush, zucc, garlic, tarragon, thyme, salt and pepp; saute for 5 more mins.
Add carrots, lentils and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 mins, stirring occasionally. By this point, the lentils should be tender and most of the broth should be absorbed. If that hasn't happened yet, then cover and simmer for a bit more. Conversely, if the broth has evaporated and the lentils are not soft, then add a bit of water and simmer for a bit longer.
Once the lentils are soft, stir in the Worcest. and peas. Let sit for ten minutes or so for maximum flavor. Taste for salt.
To serve: Scoop a cup of Caulipots into a bowl and serve a cupful of lentils over it.
Caulipots (Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes):
2 russet potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 1.5 #)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets (1# or about 3 C)
1 T olive oil (I replaced with a bit of almond milk)
2-4 T vegetable broth
1/2 t salt
several pinches of freshly ground pepper
Place potatoes in pot in enough cold water to submerge them, making sure there are about 4 inches of extra water on top for when you add the cauliflower. Bring the potatoes to a boil. Add cauliflower and lower heat to simmer. Simmer 15 mins, until the potatoes and cauli are tender.
Drain in colander, return to pot and mash with potato masher (note: I did use potato masher, but also ended up using a hand mixer to try to get them a bit creamier). Add olive oil (I used the nut milk), salt, pepper and mash a bit more. If needed, add another 2 T of broth. Taste for salt.
(Note: I think this will be a fun base to play with and add more veggies, cooked carrots or any number of foods.)
I've been having just a wonderful love affair with Viv, my Vita-mix Blender. (More on Viv and her super powers to come in a future post). My husband and I used to love ice cream, but with going no-dairy and not wanting to eat the processed, vegan versions, we haven't had anything even remotely like it. Viv to the rescue. I just toss in some water, frozen mango (Trader Joe's has a good sized bag of these reasonably priced) and add whatever other frozen or fresh fruit I think would be good. I've done raspberries, strawberries, and the version pictured below, is frozen strawberries and a fresh banana added to the mango. I set Viv on high and in about 2 minutes get a lovely way to incorporate more fruit into my day. For a creamier 'tango', use nut milk. (If this seems dangerously close to being another food reward, just remember that we need to eat-fruit-to-live! So what if it's scrumptious!).

Sue, definitely eating-to-live, in Ohio

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lucky 7 & Mac Not Cheese

Happy Anniversary to me. Today is 7 months vegan, plant-based whole food Samurai-for-my-own-health vegan day. I am damn proud of it. What a big change that is for the normally self-deprecating, barely-comfortable-in-my-own-skin person I usually am, scratch that, used to be. Could it be that the simple act of nuturing myself and feeding myself the food I am engineered to process has brought on this change?

Man is in such a hurry to complicate things, that the simplicity of what is right, natural and WHOLEsome often scurries to the wayside. We need the next shiny thing or the purple-pill (whatever that is), to make us feel whole....or at least that is the marketing ploy that is launched in a massive all-fronts attack at us 24/7 that would make even Stalin's head spin. I'm starting to think that what we really need is KALE!

Seriously, as I research more and more, I am finding connections of nutrition to not only the big four (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension), but also the other ills that plague modern man: depression, anxiety, possibly A.D.D., O.C.D. and even autism! Of course this makes logical sense when you really think about it.....we wouldn't even expect our car to run correctly on sub-standard fuel, the octane of which is tested and governmentally mandated. Does our government check the vitamin A levels of a subsidized sweet potato??? I don't know, but I want to know. I want to know WHY the basic nutritional needs of our people are continually put on the back burner and placed behind special interest and MONEY. Do these people not realize they are shooting themselves in the legislative foot??? THEY need to be healthy to live long and spend all that money, don't they?

But, I digress, and it's my anniversary, even if it is a high-school-esque type of anniversary, like when you celebrated going steady for two months.

I'm celebrating my day by acknowledging my progress and realizing that while it is important to keep one's sights set firmly ahead, one also must turn around from time to time, to view the road traveled.

Some of the physical changes I have experienced to date: I remember I used to have this continual dull ache in my right side...I used to worry about it....a lot....gone. My eyes were perpetually blood-shot....this is clearing up remarkably and the whites of my eyes seem whiter. My skin continues to improve even to the point where a dear friend noted to me after seeing me at lunch recently that my skin looked better and even younger (LOVE you, D!). I was luxuriating in a nice bubble bath the other night and realized that I don't have this weird lower leg pain I used to get. There are so many other things and I know I've forgotten many too. I sleep better, I don't have this nagging hip pain I used to get, I'm not as stiff as I was after sitting for prolonged periods. One thing lately that has happened that is just wild, even my husband noticed, I have a huge amount of scar tissue on my left 'bum-cheek' from a horse-back riding accident about 10 years ago. It has always been very sore and I had come to terms with the fact that it was likely permanent. This is a swelling about 8 inches wide by maybe 5 inches 'tall' in the middle and an inch or so deep. It is resolving and is no longer sore, has reduced by several inches. That just freaks me out and is so amazing. I think my body is simply now getting enough nutrients that it can use, without getting the nasties that it has to make up for, so now it can physiologically FOCUS on the repair and maintenance of itself.

The human body is such an amazing entity and I am beginning to realize that it is a precious gift and one that needs cared for and treated with the respect it deserves. These are all new concepts to me although I know I have paid them lip-service in the past. And, it has been a challenge getting to the information; one has to dig in and allot the time, attention and energy to finding out the truths and going against the grain of how it's always been done and to go on the treasure hunt that finding healthy foods in the grocery store has become.

So at 7 months, I salute myself and everyone who is making whatever changes they can to become healthier. I'm also celebrating my weight this morning. After just a few days on Joel Fuhrman's 6 week Eat-to-Live program (Eat to THERE's a concept---say, what???), the scale has finally budged again and in just another couple of pounds, my driver's license weight will even be true! Woo-hoo!

But, here is probably the best reason for us all to take the very BEST care of ourselves.....the next generation.

Take a look at that face. Isn't she beautiful? She's my grand-daughter. 4 1/2 months old in this picture. I want to be there for her, as my loving and wonderful grandparents were for me. I want to teach her about nature, I want to show her how to garden, I want to teach her to swim and I want to teach her how to ride a pony. I want to read her stories and encourage her to read. I want her to grow up loving animals and respecting them; I want to be the very best me I can be for her for as long as I can be. My Beautiful Girl, you are worth me digging a little deeper, confronting the sad truths about our food system, looking at the BIG UGLY of factory farms, and doing what I can to help change come about. Oh yes, you are worth it and more.

Pass the kale, please.

Sue, 7-months plant-strong, in Ohio

One of my successful actions for continuing on this plant path is something Rip Esselstyn (author: Engine 2 Diet) said in a lecture I was fortunate enough to hear him give. He said, set yourself up for success. Don't get caught without a plan. Have your next meal pretty well in mind and have your 'go-to' recipes. I adopted this excellent advice and it has been extremely helpful.

One of my favorites and definitely a 'go-to' is Rip's Mac not Cheese. Love it and it also works well with the addition of some extra veggies (e.g. peppers or onions). Recipe and photo below.
Mac Not Cheese from Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Diet
1 onion, chopped
1 C cashews (I use raw)
1/3 C lemon juice
1 1/3 C water
1/2 t sea salt
4 oz jar roasted red peppers
3 T nutritional yeast
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
16 oz whole-grain elbow pasta, cooked
425 deg. oven. Saute onion 5 minutes (I use a tiny bit of water for this and let them carmelize). In food processor, combine onion, cashews, lemon juice, water and salt. Gradually blend in peppers, yeast, spices. Thoroughly toss the sauce with pasta. Bake 20 min. until golden brown on top.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Everyday is Valentine's Day

February 14th....Valentine's Day. Cupid. Little candy hearts. Tissue boxes decorated with pink and red for holding the latest trendy cards. (I wonder how long it will be until the boxes and cards are passed over and elementary school teachers merely stop the class for 5 minutes and let everyone TEXT a Valentine's wish!). Chocolate and flowers. Where did it all come from? A quick search on Google gives an assortment of answers (some of which involve blood, guts, matryed saints, persecution and other nasties perfectly suited for a Quentin Tarantino movie), but it looks like people have been asserting and celebrating their love on Feb. 14th for quite some time.

My husband and I don't fall in step with the 'commercial' holidays too much, preferring to make our own traditions (or ignore them entirely). We've been together over 27 years now, and do celebrate & deeply cherish our love, but prefer to not just be swept along by society's decisions that on this day, you must now run out and spend $100.+ on flowers, chocolates, or jewelry.

I think (like with our food choices) it is a good exercise from time-to-time to question WHY we are doing what we are doing. Is St. Valentine's Day something we really want to participate in, or do we feel that we are just the victim of a major marketing ploy to boost Feb. sales revenue, historically the slowest month for retail.

Now, in case, I start sounding like Cupid gone rogue with those arrows, I do believe in love, most whole-heartedly---and I certainly would not take anyone's flowers or chocolate from them---if that is their thing (important safety tip: NEVER get between a woman and her chocolate!!!). And to those choosing the route of tradition, I say ENJOY! I just hate this look I see sometimes on young men's faces of feeling the PRESSURE to get something great for Valentine's Day for their mate...the scraping up of extra money they don't really have to spend on flowers....the guilt over wondering if they are doing enough for their love....where is the enjoyment and love in that?

At my house, EVERY day is Valentine's day. It sounds ridiculously trite, but it truly is. Every day is filled with opportunities to show my husband how much I's the little things that build a life, that build love. Cleaning up his dishes without scolding him for leaving them out (and quietly taking the time to appreciate that those dishes show that he is here, in my life...we've suffered too many loses in our family to NOT realize how precious time together is). Taking a few minutes to give him a shoulder massage at the end of the day, when yes, I am tired too, but it only takes a few minutes and says soooo much more than a box of chocolate. And all he does for me...taking barn chores over for me Sunday mornings so I can sleep in a bit, bringing me a cup of tea first thing in the morning at oh-dark-thirty, even if he is running late, fussing at me to get a new pair of boots so I don't slip on the wretched ice this winter has given us, and on and on, every single day. (Of course, it doesn't mean we don't get annoyed at each other, and I'll admit there are days when the appreciation of his dirty dishes left on the counter alludes me....).

But all cynicism for modern tradition set aside, since it IS Feb. 14th and I have grown up in this culture, I thought I would give myself a nice Valentine's Day present. I can't think of anything better that I could honor myself with (a relatively new concept to me....anyone else notice that when you start taking better care of yourself, your self-esteem rises???), than to up my fitness & health program to the next level.

My weight loss has been stagnant for awhile now. I have a spreadsheet and graph that I chart it on, and what started out looking like a smooth descent from the Alps (plotted weight loss), now looks more like a trip across Kansas. And while I am happiER and healthiER, I really do need to address getting the rest of the weight off. Enter Joel Fuhrman "Eat to Live" to the rescue. I'm starting his 6-week plan today (actually started two days ago), as my Valentine's Day gift to my heart.

In reading over Eat to Live,, I believe I understand now why my weight has become level: the ingestion of starchy veggies/grains. I didn't realize how much of these I was consuming until I cut them down to Dr. Fuhrman's suggested one cup/day over the past two days. YIKES! No wonder I am not losing and it is encouraging to know I can eat that much and NOT GAIN, but this will undoubtedly get my weight loss moving again.

My plan right now is to follow-up the 6 week plan with Kris Carr's (Crazy, Sexy Diet) 21-day cleanse. We will be beginning spring at that time and I think it'll be so timely to renew my insides as the outside world comes to life. [If you are not familiar with Kris Carr, I encourage you to take a few minutes to look around youtube...most of her video logs are on there, or you can visit her web-site, Here is a link to one of my favorite vlogs of hers....for some reason, this just yanks at my heart strings ].

I'm also kicking up the workouts a bit; I do treadmill and stationary bike, yoga occasionally and a bit of tai chi. I'm adding back in my weight work and switching from the relatively comfortable programs on the treadmill to the interval workouts. I figure when I get consistent with these workouts, that, plus the 6-week plan, should do the trick.


Ah, what the heck, I think we'll have a healthy version of chocolate for dessert tonight. I occasionally treat myself to a cherry-cacao smoothie. Frozen bananas, almond milk, a few dates, about a tablespoon of cacao powder (careful...easy to add too much of that), and frozen dark cherries. Blend, pour and sprinkle some cacao nibs on top. Yummy on Valentine's Day or any other day.

I know I will likely not be getting a dozen long stem red roses or a mushy Hallmark card tonight....but darling hubby knows that what floats my Valentine's boat --- a great foot rub....ahhhh. And If I don't get one today, tomorrow is another Valentine's Day in the making.

However you celebrate today, or every day, best of health to you.
Sue, loving-my-heart, in Ohio

P.S. I was great of a gift it is to the one you love to take excellent care of help ensure you'll be around to enjoy a long healthy life with them and to help take care them is truly a gift of love.

Monday, February 7, 2011

When you get 'lemons', make croutons!

I love books. Love, love, love books. My love for them started at a very young age and I credit my grandfather (and my mother---who probably got her love for reading from him also) for cultivating this life-long love of reading. Grandpa would keep a running list of which Hardy Boys books I had (no Nancy Drew for this tomboy) and would always pick up a few for me prior to coming for a visit.

Part of my habit of life-long reading is a bit of obsession with research. When I am interested in a subject, I will research it to death. The internet is a research-junkie's dream, of course, but I still love the paper and binding of a book.

So of course when making the decision to become vegan, and predominately using a whole-foods based diet with minimal oil/fat, I ravaged our library consortium for books on the subject. A couple of authors immediately stood out from the others: Robin Robertson being one, Alicia Silverstone being another, and even though both use oil/fat, I love their work. But I was also drawn to Isa Chandra Moskowitz and her incredible book: Veganomicon (co-authored with Terry Hope Romero). In researching Isa Chandra, I quickly discovered her cooking show, Post-Punk Kitchen. For more Isa Chandra click here: There is a style about Isa and individuality that is quite fascinating--this girl definitely marches to the punk beat of her own drum.

I recently bought her new cookbook: Appetite for Reduction and anxiously chose my first recipes to try from the book. I settled on her Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits and her Lotsa Veggies Lentil Veggie Soup.

I've gotten quite sloppy with my cooking in recent years, or maybe it is just reflective of my innate sense of wanting to do things MY way, but it seems like I just cannot leave a recipe alone. I followed Isa's soup recipe almost to the letter, but varied the spices a bit and also added some potatoes. That soup ended up being sooooooo good. I had it for lunch and dinner for several days and mourned the passing of the last spoonful. This will become a 'go-to' recipe for me for sure.

My sloppiness has also evolved to include a kind of 'I-don't-need-no-stinking-measuring- cups/spoons' attitude, and I jumped into Isa's biscuit recipe with that mental swagger as well. Isa also uses oil, and trying to be fat free, or oil free anyway, I subbed applesauce for the canola oil and tweaked it here and there.

Well, the results were less than stellar and I kept increasing the baking time more and more and still they wouldn't get done on the inside. I now think I had proportionately WAY too much sweet potato (now where are those measuring cups???) and the applesauce probably added more moisture as well. I will redo and attempt to give this recipe its due.

So, rather than just give this batch to the dogs, I thought...hmmm...must be something I can do with them. Voile! Croutons. So I hacked them up, stuck them on a cookie sheet and toasted them within an inch of their sweet potato lives. Here is the result.

If you look close, you can see there are still a couple of these little suckers that just refuse to die....upper left...still mushy in the center. But, most came out very crunchy and the sweetness was a nice touch....they found a happy home here, on top of Rip Esselstyn's (Engine 2 Diet) Mac not Cheese.

It remains to be seen whether I will learn my lesson here and on first attempt at a recipe, follow it more closely, and, heaven forbid, use an actual measuring device. I kinda doubt if I'll learn though, and really, I would not have discovered some very interesting croutons had I not made the 'mistake'.

Sue, winging it, in Ohio

Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's sooooo easy being green!

Early on into my switch to a vegan diet, I started having smoothies. One of my nieces had given me a blender (she got several extras for her wedding) and I used and abused that puppy into near oblivion trying to concoct the perfect fruit smoothie. I was using all frozen fruits, bananas, berries and a bit of water, but soon switched to almond milk after watching a video of Chef A.J. and Julieanna Hever. For more info on the Chef and the Dietician videos, click here (these two women rock the kazbah). (In this episode, they show you how to make almond and other milks).

(And, in case you want to hear The Clash rock the casbah, click here:

I began experimenting and at the same time was researching ph and was discovering just how acidic our bodies become on the standard American diet (SAD). {I think that acronym is positively perfect as it is truly sad that Americans are as unhealthy as we are, given all of our resources}. I began to put serious effort into adding more greens to my diet.

The daily smoothie is a perfect and easy place to sneak in a few greens and over a period of time, I began adding more and more greens to my smoothies, starting with raw spinach and eventually working up to a healthy helping of the true superfood: kale!

My niece's blender could not keep up, so I gave that one away and abandoned all financial self-restraint and bought Viv, my Vitamix. I will have to do a separate post on Viv....she is my new BFF and a huge asset to anyone who wants to pursue a plant-based diet. (For more info on Vitamix blenders, click here:

Since then, vegan life has been much easier and I now think it was ridiculous to question spending that amount of money on my health! Funny how we will put so many things in front of our health, when that is truly our greatest asset.

These days, I've settled into a pattern for my smoothies. I start with water and throw in some almonds and let them soak for a few minutes (sometimes, will soak them over night, toss the soak water and add new). To this I add some ground flax seed or chia and blend briefly. I put in about one and a half frozen bananas (I love getting them at the local IGA for a ridiculously low price because they are 'over-ripe'---the cashier always asks if I am making banana bread). To this I add frozen fruit de jour....most of the time I favor berries, but Trader Joe's has decent prices on frozen mango and sometimes I will go for a combination of mango and strawberries...serious yum. I usually toss in a few dates as well. I let Viv blend that up for me and then I stuff in what is getting to be more and more greenery: BIG handful of raw spinach and same of kale. It comes out something like this:

This is also a great way to use up things in the frig that are threatening to become science experiments if left on their own....I love not being wasteful....I think the saved money from NOT throwing away food will easily pay for Viv....and of course, continued good health.....priceless.
Sue, truly green, in Ohio