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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Confessions of a Blog-Geek & Chef A.J. Spinach Dip with Pasta

Ok, so here's the thing.....I'm a geek.  A blog geek.  Not convinced?  Let me show you this picture:



You know what that is?  That's a map I pulled out of Nat. Geo.  I stuck it on some pressboard, hung it on the wall of my workout room and those little pins???  Those are all the countries that I have had hits from on my blog.  Well, all the ones since I decided it would be really cool to have a map...of the world....on my wall....with pins in it.  I think of it like a kind of one-way pen-pal system in the blogosphere.  (And occasionally a two-way system when I get comments, which are wonderful things).

For those of you non-bloggers, there is a 'stats' tab on the dashboard of blogger and you can track the audience that views your blog, by country.  I remember the first country outside the USA that I got a hit from.  Canada.  Maybe not so far away, but native home to my favorite band, Rush, so also cool in that regard.  Australia soon followed.  My grandfather was born outside of Sidney....another cool thing.  From there it was Russia here and France there and I felt like a kid at Xmas checking my stats over morning tea.....I had to text my husband when I got Romania......and Albania (which I had to google to even know where it was).  Venezula was super cool too.  Viet Nam???  Seriously, someone in Vietnam read my blog???  It boggles the blogging mind.

I wish blogger would track the hits from the states in the U.S. ---it would be cool to try to get all 50....and daydream about someone in Utah reading my blog....or Montana, my favorite state.

When I first started this blog, I had no idea that ANYone would read it, or have an interest in following it.  The fact that I have a few followers is so special to me.  I guess we all want to make a difference in the world, and it gives me endless joy to think that I may be making a small one....and besides that, I can now pick out Croatia on a map.


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Chef A.J.'s Spinach Dip Lasagna

Chef A.J. knows a few things about food, vegan whole food, in an unprocessed format.  I am back to cooking my way through her book, although I long ago took the pressure off myself to do this in an orderly manner.  Let's face it....I am too easily distracted to do something that systematic.  So, I've been making a few things from her book "Unprocessed" which I highly recommend.  It is a no frills book (which as I have noted before) I think is actually pretty cool...it's like the book itself is unprocessed, but for people who want color glossy pictures, they should know going into it that this book does not have those things.  What it does have is some damn good recipes....like her spinach dip that is also the filling in her famous Disappearing Lasagna.  I decided to use it with pasta shells in simple layers and let me tell you, this stuff is just awesome.

More about A.J. here:  http://www.eatunprocessed.com/

Link to A.J.'s book on Amazon here: 
http://www.amazon.com/Unprocessed-achieve-vibrant-health-weight/dp/1456576097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335635120&sr=8-1

I've been so fortunate this year to have been harvesting DAILY from my garden, fresh spinach and kale for my daily smoothies.  I can barely keep up with the spinach, so thought it would be a perfect time to whip up this dip.









Put down a layer of this green goodness, toss cooked pasta on top, and cover with pasta sauce.  (Note:  I think you could skip the step of pre-cooking the pasta as long as you cover it completely with sauce; pasta will cook in the oven).

I added a layer of mushrooms and onions to my husband's batch.

Peppers and onions for mine...not a big mushroom fan.

A mismash of pasta on top of veggies---I keep a big glass jar in the cabinet and save up remnants of pasta---casseroles put them to good use.


 I sprinkled on top a mix of grated raw cashews and nutritional yeast.  Oh yes....yummy in any country.



Husband said "very good, Honey" as he went back for seconds.  Ok, it doesn't get any better than that.  Thanks, A.J.


Sue, embracing-my-inner-blog-geek, in Ohio


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tweaking and Rip Esselstyn's Kole's Creamy Cauliflower Soup

(Note:  This is actually an older post that I had saved as a draft.  Interesting to me to read it now as I have been doing pretty well at tweaking!  This is why I encourage anyone to blog or at least journal; it truly does help us note our progress.).

I suppose it is a symptom of living on a planet with a huge force like gravity that things have a natural tendency to 'go down'.  I had this thought as I was contemplating why good habits and good intentions seem to slowly slip away; why do the clear and concise edges of a commitment tend to blur with the passage of time and why is there always a 'force' of sorts that we seem to be working against?

I was examining my food intake and realizing that I have slipped a bit, even picked up a few of the hard won lost pounds and it is time to get the nutritional Sharpie pen out and more clearly delineate my lines again.

I'm not sucking down vegan chili dogs or vats of vegan ice cream, but there is just a slip here and there....like using bottled salad dressing, that even though is fat free and pretty darn clean ingredients-wise, does have 'gasp' sugar.  :-0  And I have no excuse since I have a perfectly good salad dressing recipe and my trusty Vitamix, Viv, to help me whip up a dressing in oh, about 4 minutes, if I take my time and clean up afterwards.

Still....soooo much easier to just open a bottle.  Why is that route more attractive?  Why not take pride in the extra effort to make it from scratch and realize that I am worth that effort, that a few minutes here and there will EXTEND MY LIFE, and, more importantly, enhance the QUALITY of it.

So, I'm entering another 'tweaking' phase.  I have had my greatest success when more closely following kind of a mesh of Caldwell Esselstyn's and Joel Fuhrman's food programs, so am going to ensure I get my beans/legumes daily, go back to the huge salads (with homemade dressings), and embrace my inner Food Nazi and police myself against ALL processed foods.

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I decided to once again reorganize my active food folders....two little photo brag books that I use. (These are in addition to the large folders, the computer recipe file and the collection of about 20 vegan cookbooks :-0).  One is for my 'GO-TO' recipes and the other is a 'TRY THIS' file.  They had gotten all sloppy again, with recipes just shoved in regardless of where they are supposed to be.  In clearing those out I found a recipe I had copied from Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Diet book.  Kole's Creamy Cauliflower Soup.  I already had it in my 'GO-TO' file but hadn't gotten around to trying it yet.  I love about everything Esselstyn and attribute much of my success to reading Engine 2 Diet and Caldwell Essestyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.  Anyway, I finally got around to trying Kole's Soup. 

I made this up extra thick as my husband likes what he calls "porridge" along with my homemade bread.  It was really very good.  I think that this soup would also make a great sauce over rice and veggies, or pasta, or even some toast.  It definitely will continue to reside in my 'GO-TO' file. 
Kole's Creamy Cauliflower Soup isn't listed here, but you can find many recipes on the Engine 2 site here:  http://www.managercomplete.com/engine2/recipes.aspx  as well as lots of other resources.  I highly recommend the Engine 2 Diet books, and anything 'Esselstyn'.

Kole's Creamy Cauliflower Soup, Rip Esselstyn, Engine2 Diet
Sue, tweaking-it, in Ohio

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"How in the World did we get to this place", she asked....and I replied.... and Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse

So I was in Trader Joe's a couple of weeks ago.  I'm fortunate enough to have one in reasonable driving distance (about an hour away).  I like to chat it up with the very interesting people that work as cashiers there.  I was talking to my cashier about how it makes me happy to see so many shoppers in the store and that I feel awareness is coming up about the connection between health and food and so on and we got off on the topics of factory farming, Big Dairy, school lunches, etc. and she stopped and looked at me with the saddest eyes and asked:

"How in the world did we get to this place?".

So I told her.  I was lucky that I had just jumped into William Harris' book "The Scientific Basis for Vegetarianism" and I had a lot of facts and figures at the ready.

For more on Dr. Harris, see his book: http://www.amazon.com/scientific-basis-vegetarianism-William-Harris/dp/096465380X and also http://vegsource.com.  Read his testimony before the Hawaiian House of Representatives opposing government subsidy for slaughterhouses here:  http://vegsource.com/harris/testimony.htm  I'll be writing more about Dr. Harris in future posts.  He is definitely on my 'hero' list.  See my first post about him here:  http://sunnyhawklane.blogspot.com/2011/02/usda-part-2-bullies-and-flaxers.html

I talked with my new cashier bff about our arboreal ancestors and how we used to live in trees and eat the 'rainbow'.  We moved on to famine, natural disasters and developed the evolutionary emergency survival mechanism to digest meat and dairy (mostly), without severe health consequences for short periods of time, but how industrialization and the switch of primary importance from HEALTHY SURVIVAL to POWER and MONEY started us on the now drastically slippery slope of epidemic disease and unsustainable food animal production that is our current sad state of affairs.

It was wonderful talking to this person who is a full generation younger than me.  And I told her that hope for change rests in the small decisions we make every day, and that she has the power to move that forward too, just as I do.

On my long drive home I thought about our conversation and felt an inward smile make its way to my face; people are asking the questions.  People are seeking the answers.  People are sick and tired of not only being sick and tired but of being pawns in governmental greed driven by public servants that have been charged with the responsibility of governing of us, by us and for us, and implicit in that, helping to keep us healthy.

I have hope....even when I am fuming over the latest ridiculous premise that I see either in a drug commercial on t.v. or even in a supposed 'health' article.....I have hope...and hope is a wonderful thing.
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Speaking of hope.....I hope you'll try this little yummy dessert.  I try to stay away from desserts in general, but now and then I will have a little somethin'-somethin'.  I found this Peanut-Butter Chocolate Mousse on Michelle Taylor's video blog: veganbreak.com.  She prepared this dish per the recipe from Spork-fed:  http://tinyurl.com/7lkw5zj H. Goldberg, J. Engel.  You can find the recipe on Michelle's blog: http://www.veganbreak.com/?p=603

I made the following adjustments to the recipe with good success.  Instead of maple syrup, I used 7 whole dates.  I used the medjool dates (pitted of course).  I've made this recipe with the syrup and without and it is equally yummy with the whole food option, which I recommend trying. I also subbed out the chocolate entirely for raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa--approx 1/2 cup) with good results; I sprinkled raw cacao nibs on top.  I do think I will try adding just about 1/4 C of almond milk next time as well to balance the powder.   One cautionary note:  I tend not to measure things, but I do suggest measuring the almond extract for this recipe.  It gives a wonderful flavor and you don't want to omit it, but too much can be, well, too much.

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New Winner for Mark Sutton's Heart Healthy Pizza.  I have been unable to get in touch with my original winner, so had my son draw another name......the winner is:  JUDE!  Hey, Jude (sorry, could NOT resist even though I am sure I am the 8 millionth person to do that to you.  Anyway, Jude, get in touch so we can get Mark's book out to you!
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Sue, hopeful in Ohio

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The "Anti-Vegan", Dates, and the Winner of Heart Healthy Pizza by Mark Sutton

I had an interesting experience recently; I believe I came face-to-face with 'the Anti-Vegan'.  I was really blind-sided by who this person is, as she is normally a very loving person.  I've come to understand over the last day or two that I've had to process my experience, that the negativity exuding from this person is really a factor of ignorance or lack of information more than anything else.  I guess the algebraic formula would look something like this:

Upbringing + Societal Indoctrination *(Mass Marketing Campaigns * 50 years) + Resistance to Change=Anti-Vegan

The back story on this is that I was having a light lunch at my house for a few people and I got wind that there might be an issue when this person expressed concern to my husband over what would be served at my house.  I mean, A LOT of concern.  I really believe she expected to show up and see a chunk of mud with sticks, stems and weeds poking out of it on her dinner plate! 

I made some home-made bread, a salad with about 10 different kinds of lettuce in it plus a bit of fresh spinach from my garden, a fruit salad with mango, blueberries, kiwi and Christy Morgan's (Blissful Bites) Macro Mac 'n Cheese.  My bread did not come out as well as it normally does, nor did Christy's casserole, but both were edible.  The Anti-Vegan was clearly SUFFERING from this meal and it was obvious to me that it didn't really have anything to do with the actual food that was in front of her, but rather her IDEA of what the food would be. 

She didn't want the salad at all, because 'she doesn't like spinach'.  I did talk her into eating some of it
when I explained what a small amount of spinach was in there. 

Even with that, she said, 'and you don't have any cheese???'  With a whining noise made after I said no.

I had all other veggies chopped up and in separate containers so people could choose and add as they wished:  mushrooms, 3 different kinds of peppers, cucumbers, celery and carrots combined in the same bowl....so, she wants to know what is in with the carrots and complains about the lighting in my kitchen!  <sigh>

She didn't want the fruit salad, because she doesn't eat fruit....except apples.

She didn't want to try the mac not cheese because it was made with squash and tofu, but another person (bless her) insisted she try tofu.

We didn't have real butter.  (I served Earth Balance which is itself a compromise for me). Another whining noise.

The bread was 'missing something'...actually she asked if the bread was the macaroni because it was in a cast iron pan, so she thought it was a casserole....that should have been a big clue to me that she wasn't looking at what was actually in front of her, but rather some weird picture she had conjured up in her mind.

"Don't you eat ice cream" came up in conversation....'no', I replied.  A tsk-ing noise, followed by "I eat that every night".  (Inward sigh to myself as I noted her waist size that has expanded since the last time I saw her and wondered what the inside of her body would have to say about it all!---a quiet muttering from another person at the table '....whether you need it or not'....another sigh to myself).

It went on, but to her credit, she did try the food, and I think that was a huge leap for vegan-kind.

I learned a lot from this experience.  I am so fortunate to be surrounded by supportive people, two extremely good friends that back me up daily, my husband who now proudly tells others of the changes I've made and two sons that are frankly inspirational, that I have forgotten what the 'real world' is like.

I've forgotten that the food I eat can actually be scary to some people and that the responsibility rests on me to bridge the gap between us.

I've forgotten that it is considered NORMAL, my guest even used that word in the form of a question about what my grand-daughter eats...'does she eat normal when she's not here?'....it's considered NORMAL to eat ice cream every night, slather butter, cheese, fat-laden dressings on everything.....to eat food that is fresh, clean and unadulterated with these things is the oddity.  To eat for health is ABnormal. 

I was very upset that people couldn't come to my house and enjoy a meal...I felt disappointed and extremely hurt.  I told my son later that it was a character flaw in me that I let this stuff upset me so much.  He said "being who you are is not a character flaw".  I swear if I ever get a tattoo, that'll be it. 

It's true---I am who I am and I do care and want people to leave my house sated in every way.  Hearing those words from him, took the sting out of everything and made it ok to be me.  Lessons.  Life is full of them.  Philosophers.  They are everywhere.
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Dates

Part of tweaking my diet has been to remove the processed foods that have squirmed their way back into my diet.  Mostly they are agave and maple syrup.  I will likely still use them, but on a very limited basis.  I'm going with Chef A.J.'s (check her out here:  http://www.eatunprocessed.com/) approach, and using dates predominately as a sweetener.  I was thrilled to see a link to this short video, in a comment on Wendy's Healthy Girl's Kitchen blog ( find Wendy here: www.healthygirlskitchen.blogspot.com).


http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/are-dates-good-for-you/

I was aware of many of the nutrients contained in dates, but there is a lot going on in this power food.  Check it out.

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Heart Healthy Pizza Cookbook Giveaway Winner

The winner of Mark Sutton's Heart Healthy Pizza Cookbook is.......


ANN

Congratulations, Ann.  Be sure to e-mail me:  sunnyhawklane@gmail.com and I'll get your shipping address, etc.  Thank you to everyone who entered and a special thanks again to Mark Sutton for taking the time to answer my questions and for donating the book for this give-away.  I hope interested readers will visit Mark's web-site at: www.hearthealthypizza.com where you can order a copy of the book, check out some great resources, see some recipes and more coming soon.

Thanks!

Sue, being myself, in Ohio